A Kidney, A Match, Two Lives–Val Sorrentino And Karen Silvernail, A Story Of Courage And Resilience

Val Sorrentino, Karen Silvernail
Val and Karen. Photo courtesy of Julia Gerace.

A new year, a new beginning, a new life. Think about the things that matter. Val Sorrentino and Karen Silvernail came together in 2012 so 2013 and beyond will endure for them, their families and anyone who wants to follow their example. Karen donated a kidney to her friend Val. They share the poignancy below in their own words, to embrace a new year, new lives and renewed spirit.

Val’s Story:
It’s hard to believe that I spent the holidays of 2011 in end-stage renal failure, worrying about my future. It’s even harder to believe that Karen, my dear friend of more than 30 years, offered to give me a kidney and that she was actually a match. I received one of Karen’s kidneys on August 2, 2012 and after some bumps in the road, we have both recuperated and are doing great. Now it’s 2013 and, miraculously, it is all behind us.

I’m not going to lie. The last year was difficult. Even though Karen was a blood and tissue match, she had to be in excellent health in order to donate a kidney. She endured months of tests and repeat tests before she was finally approved to be a donor. During this waiting period, my health was failing. I struggled to get through each day and my employer was less than sympathetic. It was a scary time.

The fact that I have Karen’s kidney in me is at times surreal. The kidney was placed in my lower abdomen by my hip bone and I can actually feel it. It is a constant reminder of the miracle of modern medicine and the generosity and kindness of a good friend. I thank God every night for my new kidney and for bringing Karen into my life.

Each month I go to Yale to meet with my nephrologist. As I sit in the crowded transplant waiting area, I am surrounded by people who, each and every one, received a kidney from a known or unknown donor. We are all alive and well today because of the kindness of others.

I am approaching the 5-month anniversary of the transplant and the experience has changed me. It has renewed my faith in people and in the power of a higher being. Not many people get a second chance at life. Thanks to Karen, I now have that chance. I have a chance to be a better person. I have a chance to pay it forward. And that’s exactly what I intend to do in 2013.

Karen’s story:

It’s a funny thing. You know those Friday afternoons when you think, “when will this day ever end!?!?!?” The week seems endless, time moving like a snail. Well that is definitely not the case of the past 10 months. Since February of 2012, life and the amazing process that Val and I experienced truly sped by. Yes, it’s true, it was quite difficult–waiting to hear for that much-anticipated phone call from Yale saying “you are a match,” but the truth is, once I heard that Val needed a kidney, I knew it was meant to be.

Val and I totally trusted all the Doctors, Nurses and transplant coordinators at Yale. We also knew our guardian angels would be by our sides and we are both very fortunate to be blessed with wonderful families and friends who helped us the whole way.

I know I have said this before but it’s worth saying again. How often in life are we given the opportunity to actually improve a friend’s health? Well I was lucky enough to be given the chance and we are both grateful and humbled by the experience.

Both Karen and Val want to tell their stories to raise awareness about organ donation. People can go to www.donatelife.net and register online to become organ donors. People can also be live donors like Karen. Most people know that you can give blood but don’t know that you can give bone marrow, a part of a liver or a kidney and still live a long and healthy life. That’s the message they want to get out there. Please feel free to pass this story on so that others may be helped. Thank you.



  1. What an amazing story. Two very courageous woman. A real blessing. These are the important issues in life. Thank you for sharing your story. I am not yet an organ donor; I will be registering. Thank you. Glad you are both doing well.

  2. Val, I am thrilled you have come through this transplant healthy and will now live a normal life. To Karen, you are a role model for all of us. You are truly a hero. God bless you both.

  3. Val can’t say anything about this but she has been going through hell with this administration. Even when she was very sick these bastards were trying to fire her. Here is a 32-year employee who all of a sudden needed to be fired. They moved her from job to job and really made her life miserable. Imagine being very ill, waiting for a transplant and having to fight for your job all at the same time. Now that she is back to work they continue to go after her, COULD IT BE BECAUSE SHE IS THE PRESIDENT OF LIUNA?
    This is another case of the Finch administration going after a strong, intelligent female employee.
    They have a long record of doing this. Adam Wood, Andy Nunn and mayor green jeans are afraid of strong intelligent women. Makes you wonder!!! Keep fighting Val, I am on your side and if there is ever anything I can do to help you let me know. Remember I used to be an investigator.

  4. How many OIB readers attended a City Council meeting in 2012? After the public-speaking session (where many Council persons are routinely not present for up to 6 five-minute time limit statements), it has become routine for Mayor Finch and/or Council President Tom McCarthy to preside over some “feel good” moments. For instance recently a 10-year-old City student collected over 1,000 pounds of food from his neighborhood. Another recent certification was to a Bridgeport man who has run into burning buildings to save another person.

    This is the type of story Bill and Tom like to feature. Lots of opportunity to take pictures, hug and honor individuals for choices that make a big difference in the lives of others. Hope some Council person thinks this is worthy of nominating, for the sheer example of organ donation registration.

    By the way I would be happy to nominate Tom Sherwood or Anne Kelly-Lenz for a “Certificate of Accomplishment” if they managed to produce 12 monthly financial reports within 4 weeks of previous month’s end for 12 months in a row!!! Now that would be a real picture, wouldn’t it? Time will tell.

  5. I don’t want to tarnish the spirit of this wonderful, inspirational story. Suffice it to say this administration will go down in history as the most mean-spirited, cruel, vindictive administration we have ever seen. People like Alanna Kabel, who carries out the evil deeds, and her cousin Tom McCarthy, who looks the other way and then goes to church on Sunday, well let’s just say God don’t like ugly. I’ll save the remainder of my comments for another day.

  6. Fixer, this is a wonderful and inspirational story. You are right not to tarnish it. But the difference between the Finch/McCarthy ‘feel good’ presentations at City Council meetings and the other ‘vindictive,’ ‘mean spirited’ and ‘cruel’ actions that take place out of sight is best described by the term, hypocrites! There are too many people in City governance who cannot walk the talk they profess. Holding the actions and words of hypocrites up to the light of day and the rule of law makes them squirm because they have no good answer. Keep asking questions. Hypocrites are short on answers. Time will tell.


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