Former organ donor finds perfect match for her own transplant

Judy Casella poses with her father after she donated her kidney to him.
Judy Casella poses with her father after she donated her kidney to him.(WVIR)
Updated: Mar. 28, 2021 at 8:41 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Over two decades ago, Judy Casella, a Culpeper native and employee with UVA Health’s Physicians Group, gave her father the ultimate gift. It was a kidney transplant that could save his life.

“My dad, and now I’ll get emotional, was the most amazing person in the world,” she said. “It was so warming for me to be able to help my dad, because of everything that my dad had done for me growing up, this was the least I could do for my father. I could give him the gift of life.”

Little did she know, despite good health and exercise, she’d need one, too. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with kidney disease.

“Until the pandemic, I was working out six days a week at ACAC. Folks use to say to me, we can’t believe you have stage four kidney disease, but I felt great.”

Enter Nicole Vaughan, one of Judy’s coworkers at UVA.

“She started telling her story and how, eventually, she would need a kidney,” Vaughan explained. “I felt this rush come over me, and this sense of warmth as well as chills, and I just really feel that God called me and he spoke to me and told me, ‘Nicole, you have got to get yourself tested.’”

After several tests, she called Casella with good news.

“She said ‘I just want to tell you we matched.’ And I was driving,” Casella recounted. “I was on Park Street and I was speechless and I just started crying. And she said ‘Are you alright?’ and I said, ‘These are just happy tears.’”

Her perfect match, from a coworker turned friend, would give her the gift she gave to her father.

“I’m just so proud to be able to do this for her. That’s all I can say. This is just wonderful. It’s a blessing,” Vaughan said.

Casella calls Vaughan her angel, rightfully so.

“I mean she is going to give me another chance. I mean she is giving me a gift of life. She is not just giving me a small gift. She’s saving my life,” Casella said.

On April 8, Judy will receive that gift she said she’d give again and again if she could.

“Organ donation is a wonderful thing,” Judy said. “If someone asked me, ‘Had you known 26 years ago if you gave an organ to your dad that 26 years later you would need a kidney yourself, would that change your mind?’ And I get that question a lot. Absolutely not. I would’ve done the exact same thing.”

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