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Vicki Whybrew

  • PC: Six years ago Cob Whybrew,in weakened health from a bad kidney and ineligible to receive a transplant because of his age, got new lease on life when his wife became his successful kidney donor. They made history as the oldest organ donor team.

    2/4/2002: B1: Six years ago, Santa Rosan Vicki Whybrew donated one of her kidneys to her husband, Cob.

When Vicki Whybrew donated one of her kidneys to her husband, Cob, just before Christmas in 1995 it was not only a gift of life, but a gift of time.

Both in their late seventies, they were the oldest kidney donor and recipient on record at the time and the surgery drew international attention to the Santa Rosa couple.

The transplant gave them 15 more years together, including a 50th anniversary trip to Portugal, before Cob's death at age 91 in 2010. On May 9, Vicki joined him, succumbing at home to congestive heart failure and pneumonia. She was 95.

"If there really is such a thing as soul mates then Cob and I fit the bill," she wrote at the end of an autobiography called "My Fantastic Life," penned in longhand for her two children, Kim and Mark, when she was in her 90s.

Unfortunately, neither of his offspring proved to be a kidney match when Robert "Cob" Whybrew, began suffering renal failure. He was turned down by four different hospitals as too old for a kidney transplant. UCSF Medical Center finally agreed to take him on, but he was 1,000th on the waiting list. His strength and spirits were failing when Vicki chanced upon an article in a newspaper about how longtime spouses can be good matches.

She quickly offered up one of her own. Even then, some doctors refused to perform the surgery because of their ages. Vicki, then 79 and in top health after years of dancing, swimming and eating well, pushed UCSF Medical Center to go ahead with the record-setting surgery.

The Whybrews made occasional appearances on behalf of organ donation, inspiring other older couples to step forward and do the same, their surgeon Dr. Nancy Ascher would later say.

The daughter of Armenian immigrants, Victoria Vartanian Whybrew was born in 1917 in Granite City, Ill., a multi-ethnic community across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Mo.

She took up dancing at age 10 and quickly showed promise. After high school, she was selected to be a soloist and choreographer for several touring dance troupes.

Whybrew believed her greatest talent was in designing and making clothes. As a young girl, she took classes in fashion design and throughout her life she designed and constructed classic gowns, suits and dresses for herself as well as wardrobe pieces for her family.


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