Stunt Pilot Battles Kidney Disease
Gene Soucy and Teresa stokes are a rare treat for air show audiences. Fans watch in awe as gene appears to stall his plane in midair and dive.
And Teresa, gene's partner in work and life, amazes crowds with her wing walking, at times standing on the edge of the plane's wings--without--a safety harness.
TERESA: I'm just up there flying like a bird or superman.
As death-defying as such feats are, the couple have had to deal with an even more daunting challenge: a life-threatening disease.
GENE: I just felt more tired less energy and of course. I just thought I was getting older.
It began during a routine medical exam, when doctors diagnosed gene with kidney disease.
GENE: He said someday you're going to have kidney problems, I said yeah right.
The pair kept touring and performing for audiences nationwide even as the disease began to take its toll.
GENE: A bone of my foot broke one time actually twice just squatting down I didn't realize it was the kidneys control the calcium in your bones.
At first, doctors thought gene might have a year before his kidneys would start to fail. But it soon became clear his condition was more dire and he had to make a choice.
GENE: That's when they told me I could go on dialysis for life or have a transplant and solve your problems. That was easy.
Family members stepped up to be living donors but they didn't qualify as candidates. That's when Teresa volunteered.
TERESA: I never dreamt I would be a living donor but as soon as you have a loved one that's in need there's not much choice, the alternative is no good.
At the University of Maryland medical center, Teresa underwent a procedure like this--laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, living donor surgery.
Doctors make four small incisions in the donor's abdomen. Using video equipment to see inside the body, they remove the kidney, which is then transplanted into the recipient. The donor typically experiences less pain and a quicker recovery time than with conventional surgery.
TERESA: Everything came back together slowly, of course I walked slowly for the first few days everyday I got stronger I took longer walks and you know just took everything real easy.
For Gene, recovery was a bit slower, but having a healthy kidney gave him a new lease on life.
GENE: I was out of the hospital in four or five days. After the transplant I just felt so good I said I'll be darn I'm not old at all I'm twenty again.
Within months of the transplant the duo were back prowling the skies in their plane, the show cat.
TERESA: I don't think it's that kind of thing oh you have to be some kind of dare devil to donate a kidney.
Gene and Teresa work not only to entertain crowds but also to educate them about living donorship.
GENE: We want to encourage so many people to donate to help their family members cause there is a lot of people on dialysis around the country.
TERESA: I've had a lot of accomplishments in my life but I think if you can save someone's life you can't beat that it's a good feeling."
This entry last modified on: January 25, 2013 10:51 AM
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About the Video
High-flying stunt pilot Gene Soucy gets a kidney donated by his wingwalker.