Sixes Elementary School Special Education teacher Jeannie Cordaro donated a kidney to Trey Powell, the husband of Dean Rusk Middle School seventh-grade teacher Leslie Powell.
The season of Thanksgiving began early this year for two Cherokee County School District families, who now are forever linked through the gift of life.
Sixes Elementary School Special Education teacher Jeannie Cordaro is recovering from a successful surgery last week to donate a kidney to Trey Powell, the husband of Dean Rusk Middle School seventh-grade teacher Leslie Powell.
“There are no words to properly thank her,” said Ms. Powell, who calls Ms. Cordaro their “angel.” “This shows the heart of Cherokee County teachers who not only give in their classrooms, but in their lives ... to make a difference in the lives of others. Jeannie has a true servant’s heart. She is giving her kidney, using her sick leave, giving her time to fully recover and return to school. She exemplifies #CCSDfam.”
The Cordaro and Powell families have known each other for 15 years through a friendship that began between their then 5-year-old sons on the Hobgood Park ballfield and in Sixes ES classrooms. It continued as Mr. Powell coached their Cherokee Youth Basketball team, and as the families’ daughters, who also are the same age, grew up together at Sixes ES and in a Girl Scout troop led by Ms. Cordaro and a CYB team Mr. Powell helped coach.
The families also have known each other through Mr. Powell’s struggles, which began in February 2018 with sharp pains in his leg. The doctors found cellulitis on his foot, which over a week, progressed to sepsis and then Stage V kidney failure, despite no prior kidney issues. He underwent 24 surgeries including amputations to his leg, and, in May 2018, began dialysis for three days a week for four hours at a time.
Life lost much of its joy, as Mr. Powell’s days and then weeks and then months were filled with these treatments. The doctors suggested a kidney transplant, and, in August 2019, Mr. Powell joined the transplant list. The family announced their need for a living donor on social media and were humbled as friends, neighbors and colleagues completed the questionnaire to see if they were a match.
In October 2019, Ms. Cordaro made what would be a life-saving decision.
“I knew it was a long shot, being unrelated, but felt led to at least fill out the questionnaire,” she said.
She learned she matched her longtime friend’s needs, and then endured numerous tests on the path toward donation.
“Every test she passed we became more excited,” Ms. Powell said. “We were overwhelmed at her willingness to help him. What a blessing.”
Ms. Cordaro said she and her family – husband, Jay, and their children, Brady and Sophie -- felt great support and positivity from everyone who learned about her decision. And, most importantly, she has been at peace with it since clicking on that questionnaire more than a year ago.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said he was humbled by Ms. Cordaro’s gift when he learned about her plans.
“No matter how much all of us may generously give through our time, talents and treasure, those gifts pale in comparison to giving life,” he said. “It’s incredibly moving to know that we have such selfless colleagues in our CCSD family. I am grateful to Jeannie for her work every day to serve our special needs students and for her amazing gift to Trey and Leslie and their children.”
This Thanksgiving, Mr. Powell will celebrate the holiday at home as he recovers and begins his life anew, a gift that Ms. Powell said she and their children, Mason and Anna, will be forever grateful to have received.
“We are so thankful for her gift,” Ms. Powell said. “She changed our lives.”
Sixes Elementary School Special Education teacher Jeannie Cordaro, second from right, donated a kidney to Trey Powell, the husband of Dean Rusk Middle School seventh-grade teacher Leslie Powell and father of Mason and Anna.