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Oct 14, 2009 1:51 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Couple are 'a perfect match' in more ways than one

Oct 14, 2009 1:51 PM

When Cindy McCarthy and Horace Barrow are married on October 24, more than just a gold band and their wedding vows will link them for life.

They have been connected from the inside out, so to speak, since May, when Ms. McCarthy donated her kidney to Mr. Barrow. The couple, who met through one of Mr. Barrow’s dialysis treatment nurses, had known each for a year by the time of the surgery, and both already knew they were each other’s soulmate.

“I know I want to spend the rest of my life with this man, but I want that to be as long as possible. So that’s why I donated,” Ms. McCarthy, 33, of Mastic said.

Mr. Barrow, 40, of Riverside, suffers from a type of reflux that causes chronic renal failure. He had his first transplant at age 23, and he received his fiancee’s kidney in May at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Before the transplant, he regularly underwent dialysis, a process that removes toxins from the body with the use of a machine. All of the blood and fluid within a person’s body is filtered through a machine and then pumped back, clean, into the body.

The groom-to-be’s first “new” kidney was 17 and a half years old, well beyond the 10 years doctors had projected it would remain healthy, when it was replaced with Ms. McCarthy’s. Even with the first transplant kidney, Mr. Barrow had been going to four-hour dialysis sessions at the Stony Brook Kidney Center in East Setauket three times a week. But dialysis can be used to clean the blood for only so long before unhealthy toxins begin to build up in the body.

After learning about the donation process—and being assured she could still have children with only one kidney—Ms. McCarthy told her boyfriend she would give him one of her vital organs. “I want to be with him as long as possible,” Ms. McCarthy said, explaining her decision.

Remarkably, the pair also share the same blood type—the rare Type 0 negative, shared by only about 7 percent of the population, according to the American Red Cross.

Ms. McCarthy said when she broke the news to her fiance, he almost fell on the floor.

Mr. Barrow said that he tried to talk her out of donating the organ. He explained that he has always been protective and did not want his girlfriend to undergo an elective surgery, even if it would extend his own life.

“I was extremely emotional to hear I was getting a kidney,” Mr. Barrow said. “I was very concerned about her. I’m a veteran at this. I do what I need to do and know I’m going to be fine.

“The last time I got a kidney, it was from a cadaver, and there were no worries. But this time concerned me, because it’s from the woman I love.”

The couple went through the transplant surgery in May without a hitch and were laughing as each was administered anesthesia, said Mr. Barrow’s mother, Ruby, who works in the Water Mill Post Office. She explained said that the surgeons and nurses were excited to see Mr. Barrow and Ms. McCarthy, and were thrilled to see what good spirits the two patients were in.

Ms. McCarthy said that her surgery took two hours, and was no worse than the two Caesarean sections she has had.

Mr. Barrow credited his mother and grandmother, Vandell Cochran Brown Wilkinson Booker, for helping him stay positive about his life, despite suffering from reflux and needing a kidney transplant. “My family has been tremendous, and my mom has been my biggest cheerleader,” Mr. Barrow said. “She’s amazed at me.”

Ms. Barrow noted that there is a history of organ donation in her family: When her husband died in 1987, she opted to have all of his organs donated. She said her husband, also named Horace, had discussed donating one of his kidneys to their son. He never did so, but she said that his organs saved the lives of three other people.

“When he died, he had wanted to save his son’s life, but why not save other people’s?” Ms. Barrow said.

A few months after the kidney transplant, when both had nearly completely healed, Mr. Barrow proposed to Ms. McCarthy.

The pair had a feeling they would be married after one of their first dates—a dinner at the Moriches Bay Diner in Moriches, which stretched into an evening-long conversation.

“First of all, she was gorgeous, she had a lot of personality, as well as beauty and brains,” Mr. Barrow said of his first impression of his fiancee.

Ms. McCarthy, likewise, was thrilled when Mr. Barrow accepted her two children, Kayla, 7, and Sean, 5.

But Mr. Barrow said he wanted to make it official by getting down on his knee and sliding a diamond ring onto Ms. McCarthy’s left ring finger.

The upcoming wedding is the second for both, but both said this time they feel 100-percent ready to commit. Mr. Barrow noted that he does not have cold feet—they are not even chilly.

“This time it’s different, because I know God has put us together, and we’ve been put together for more than just one reason—I was meant to give him my kidney, and we were meant to grow and be a couple,” Ms. McCarthy said.

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Best Wishes to both on your wedding. Great story!
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Oct 13, 09 9:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
If more people were as generous as Cindy McCarthy, we wouldn’t have over 6,000 Americans dying every year waiting for organ transplants. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ ...more
By LIFESHARERS (2), Nashville on Oct 15, 09 2:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
wow. Beautiful.
By MaryB (19), East Hampton on Oct 16, 09 10:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
You go girl! Good luck to a great couple. Now this is the kind of news I like to read about.
By private (27), sag harbor on Oct 17, 09 8:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
That's my friend! She is such an inspiration to all of us and I am very proud to have her as my Mary Kay sales representative. :-) She is a beautiful person inside and out and I am so happy that she has found a man as kind as he is to spend the rest of her life with. Congratulations to the two of you!
By cjdinkelmeyer (3), Riverhead on Oct 18, 09 5:25 PM
2 members liked this comment
Good thing they're not getting married in Louisiana!
By TheGoodLife (43), Westhampton Beach on Oct 20, 09 5:33 AM
To TheGoodLife (Westhampton Beach).......How do you read such a wonderful article like that and make an ignorant comment as such. You're ridiculous!!

Best of luck to the two of you. Your love and your story is an inspiration to all and prayerfully more people will see the importance of organ donation and be in the position to save lives just as Ms. McCarthy (now BARROW) did. She is a true sign of strength and a true demonstraton of the power of love!

GOD bless.
By Debusey2 (1), Riverhead on Nov 12, 09 7:49 PM