During the recording of her album Still Unforgettable in 2008, multiple Grammy® Award-winning singer/songwriter Natalie Cole was diagnosed with Hepatitis C at a routine examination. Treatment included chemotherapy whose side effects, coupled with her strenuous schedule, led to her hospitalization. Doctors found that the medication helping her liver was destroying her kidneys. Cole suffered total renal failure and began receiving thrice-weekly dialysis. Without a transplant, her future was uncertain.
Throughout her ordeal, one of her biggest supporters was her beloved sister Cooke. But then Cooke herself became ill with cancer. Astonishingly, as Cooke lay dying, Natalie received a call that a kidney was available, but the surgery had to be performed immediately. Natalie couldn’t leave her sister’s side, but neither could she refuse the kidney that would save her own life.
In a deeply affecting memoir released in November 2010, Love Brought Me Back: A Journey of Loss and Gain, Cole recounts her two-year battle with life-threatening illness. As counterpoint to Cole’s own remarkable story, the sister of her kidney donor shares her own family’s story of love, loss, and the generosity of spirit that would come to connect two very different women—total strangers—in the most intimate way imaginable.
Cole’s kidney transplant in May 2009 sparked an interest in kidney disease research and brought her to UKRO as a director and national spokesperson. “I survived kidney failure and am alive and healthy today because of treatments, procedures, and medications devised from decades of medical research,” says Cole. “The staggering toll that kidney diseases exact makes it imperative that we increase study in this field, and I am proud to support the efforts of UKRO to do so. Through my involvement, I hope to bring greater recognition to UKRO’s fundraising efforts for kidney research.”
In this video clip, taped prior to her transplant, Natalie Cole discusses her kidney disease and UKRO on Larry King Live.