Cindy Stoltey was the most incredible, loving, giving, and courageous woman I have ever known. She came into my life as my sister-in-law, but in my heart she is forever my sister. On June 22, 2017, Cindy lost her 44 year battle with diabetes after ongoing complications from a kidney and pancreas transplant that happened 22 years ago.
Throughout her life, CIndy was strong as she survived one medical journey after another. At the age of seven, she went into a coma for 48 hours. Since then, Cindy has fought hard. Between 1991 and 1992, Cindy had a total of eleven eye surgeries, six on one eye and five on the other. These surgeries were a result of advanced diabetic retinopathy. Each surgery ranged from 1000-1400 individual burns to the retina. Dr. Couvian, who performed the surgeries, taught the technique at Harvard before moving to Santa Barbara. He was a legend in his field. In 1992, Bart, Cindy’s husband, took her to the hospital in Fresno, California. Her organs had begun to shut down. We almost lost her twenty five years ago, but she fought her way back. In February of 1994, Cindy was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. She stayed in the hospital for a total of three weeks, two of which were spent in the ICU. After Cindy’s hospital stay in 1992, her kidneys recovered and were functioning for a time, but in May of 1994, CIndy had to go on dialysis. In August of 1995, Cindy received an experimental double pancreas and kidney transplant. At the time, this surgery was still highly experimental. The doctors said this surgery would give us twenty more years with Cindy, and we got twenty two. Out of 35 patients to receive the double transplant, CIndy was the 32nd. She was the longest living recipient. A year later, Cindy continued her career as a pioneer in pancreatic transplantation, but not without risk. At the time, it was common practice to provide a drain from the pancreas to the bladder. This caused Cindy to suffer from constant pancreatitis from urine backflow. Cindy was admitted to the hospital after another episode. Her surgeon, Dr. Wahlstrom said that if he did nothing, she would lose the pancreas in less than five years. If the very complex surgery was not successful, she could lose both the pancreas and the kidney. He took a day to sit down by her bed, turn down the lights in her room, and pray over her. The next day, he came in and recommended surgery. Dr. Wahlstrom found a way to convert her pancreas so that it drained into her bowel. This had never been done before due to the fear of bacteria infecting the transplant. It was so successful on Cindy, however, that it is now common practice and was published in medical journals. In 2013, Cindy experienced congestive heart failure. In December of 2014, Cindy had a stroke, leaving her paralyzed. Despite everything she had been through, she still found the strength to teach herself to walk again. As her immune system deteriorated over the past year and a half, Cindy was left susceptible to heart failure and pneumonia. She experienced five hospital visits in her last three years. In her final months, Cindy experienced renal failure, heart failure, ischemic colitis, and suffered a painful stage four wound. In her final week, dialysis was no longer working. Unfortunately, Cindy was no longer a candidate for a new transplant as the risk was too high. Without her strong spirit and the help of her doctors, Cindy would have been blind at the age of 25 and dead at 30.
Throughout her incredible journey, Cindy’s husband, Bart, was always by her side. They were married in August of 1987. Together, they co-pastored in churches in Southern California before they moved up to Bart’s current church, Reedsport Assembly of God in Reedsport, Oregon. Cindy wanted nothing more than to be a faithful wife and devoted mother. Her dream came true, despite doctors telling her she couldn’t get pregnant after her transplant. She gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Hannah Grace. Hannah Grace was premature and placed on life support. We lost her 6 weeks later. Health permitting, Cindy never missed an opportunity to be at her children’s games. Even when she couldn’t make it out of the car, Bart would sit with her and give her updates on the game so she wouldn’t miss it. As Cindy knew her time on earth was coming to an end, she signed a DNR. She prayed every night that she would live to watch her son graduate. Hours before she passed, she told Bart, “The door is cracked open. We need to go. Come on, Bart, we gotta go.” She wanted her best friend to go with her to heaven.
Cindy invested her heart, love, and time into the churches and communities where they served. Her smile and laugh could light up a room. She never knew a stranger. She was so warm and open that it caused those around her to feel as though they could open up and talk to her. Bart and Cindy have poured their hearts, souls, and energy into their ministry. They have given their time and devotion to the small churches where the pastored, which could only provide small salaries, without asking for anything in return.
In Cindy’s final months, Bart made five trips a week in between Reedsport and Springfield, Oregon in an attempt to give attention to his wife, his children, his home, and his job. Now Bart is trying to help his children cope with the loss of their mom, fulfilling his pastoral duties, and learning to put one foot in front of the other and live each day without Cindy in his life.
On top of everything Bart and his children have been through with their loss, the financial challenges will be insurmountable. Funeral expenses and medical bills will leave this generous family overwhelmed financially while grappling with the loss of their beloved Cindy.
If you've ever lost someone you love, you know exactly what Bart's dealing with in these early stages of grieving. It doesn't end there. If you feel it in your heart, please help this family with their financial burden so this father can devote his time to his children in his family’s time of need.
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