Kidney Donation Bonds Women

Linda Gadell's kidneys were failing as the result of a hereditary illness. She needed a transplant and confided her problem to fellow staff members at morning prayer in the chapel of the Bethlehem Baptist Christian Academy in Fairfax County, where she teaches.

Debbie Thorpe, who teaches kindergarten at the school, saw Gadell's plea for prayers as a sign from God and offered help. Blood tests showed that Thorpe was a suitable donor. Three months later, one of Thorpe's healthy kidneys was implanted in Gadell.

That was in March.

Now, both women say they are in good health.

Thorpe, 47, returned to her class in May and taught half-days until the summer recess.

Gadell, 48, said she's feeling stronger every day and returned to her job as a second-grade teacher in September.

Because she's taking drugs to prevent her body from rejecting the new organ--drugs that compromise her immune system--she decided she wouldn't return to teaching, and the many colds and germs that young children pass, until she was stronger and held off until the start of the new school year.

The women said they speak on the phone almost every day. While they were longtime friends before the surgery, they said their relationship has flourished as a result of their new bond.

"Everything is more personal now," Gadell said. "It's a different relationship. We're a lot closer, as it should be."

-- Leef Smith

Franklin Slowly Rebuilds Its Downtown

Two months after the city of Franklin was flooded when Hurricane Floyd swept across southern Virginia, about 30 businesses have temporarily set up shop in a cluster of trailers two miles from downtown. A handful of businesses have reopened downtown, and another handful plan to reopen by Wednesday.

Some businesses, however, may be lost to downtown forever, because the merchants moved elsewhere in Franklin or decided not to reopen.

A recent survey showed that 58 percent of the merchants definitely planned to return to downtown, according to the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce. Twelve percent said they would not return, while 17 percent were undecided.

Franklin, a city of about 8,700 people, began redeveloping its downtown in 1985. The occupancy rate for the buildings, many from the early decades of the 20th century, grew from 61 percent in 1991 to 98 percent by 1994, city officials said.

All of that was wiped out when the Blackwater River sent about 12 feet of water into Franklin in mid-September. Flooding damaged or destroyed 300 homes in Franklin and surrounding Southampton County and devastated the downtown.

Now, downtown already looks different from the way it did right after the water receded.

Gone is the muck-covered furniture, soaked carpeting and ruined merchandise that piled up in the streets as store owners began cleaning up.

A few buildings that were damaged beyond repair have been torn down.

Gone, too, for the most part, is the stench of spilled fuel oil, raw sewage, garbage and waterlogged peanuts from a nearby storage facility.

Still, the area is eerily quiet, except for the pounding and buzzing of tools as the rebuilding continues. The streets remain closed except to merchants.

-- Associated Press