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Granddaughter donates kidney to grandfather from Red Lake

Don Cook of Red Lake received the gift of a kidney from his granddaughter, Tausha Smith, 25, also of Red Lake, in October. (Monte Draper/Pioneer)

This Thanksgiving, Don Cook gave thanks for a gift from his granddaughter - a kidney.

The Red Lake man received the kidney from Tausha Smith, 25, also of Red Lake, Oct. 2 at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, N.D.

"She's a one of a kind for doing what she did," said Cook, 66.

"He's my grandpa," Smith said. "He keeps the family together. ... We all need him."

At his Red Lake home, Cook cares for two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

As a dialysis patient, however, he would leave the treatments feeling drained. Cook, who was treated for high blood pressure and diabetes for 20 years, started dialysis in February after his kidneys failed. He went three days a week for three hours and 15 minutes at a time.

"I don't know how long I could have taken it," he said.

Watching her grandfather deal with the effects of dialysis and kidney failure, Smith offered to donate a kidney to him.

After a series of medical tests, Smith, whose O-positive blood type is considered the universal donor, learned she could be a kidney donor for her grandfather.

"I'm young and I'm healthy, so I was a good match," she added.

On Oct. 2, both grandfather and granddaughter underwent surgery for the transplant.

"I was the first one to go in," Smith said.

About an hour later, Cook's operation began. The surgery lasted about three hours.

Both had hospital stays after their operations - four days for Smith and five days for Cook. After his release from the hospital, Cook stayed in Fargo for two and a half weeks for a series of tests and checkups.

While it took her about a month and a half to heal, Smith said her recovery went well.

Cook noted, "I had a little rougher time - a lot of pain."

Next week, Cook plans to return to work at Red Lake Tribal Court as a public defender. Smith also wants to go back to work soon.

Cook said he will never forget his granddaughter's gift.

"There aren't too many young people who would do that these days," he said. "I will be grateful to her for the rest of my life."