Woman dies months after doctors reportedly removed both of her healthy kidneys by mistake

UPDATE 2/13/2019: The University of Colorado Hospital told Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement that “privacy laws prevent us from providing information about patients. Unfortunately, this prevents us from responding to or addressing inaccuracies in news stories. Historically, we have been deeply concerned and disappointed in reporting by this Fox31/KDVR reporter and his inaccurate, incomplete and misleading stories.”


A 73-year-old woman in Colorado died on Friday, nine months after doctors wrongly removed her kidneys. The surgery followed a mistaken diagnosis of cancer two months prior.

Prior to her death, Linda Woolley told Denver news station KDVR that her “life was totally changed” after she underwent the needless surgery in May, which doctors at the University of Colorado Hospital ordered after telling her in March that they’d found cancer in both of her kidneys based on pathology reports. But she later discovered that the reports actually showed “no evidence of malignancy” from results “consistent with a benign process.”

Woolley had been leading an active life before the surgery, riding horses and swimming in her free time. But the medical mix-up put an end to all that, leading the grandmother to undergo four-hour dialysis treatments three times a week.

Dialysis is no picnic no matter how used to it you get,” she told KDVR. “It robs you of your life.”

Woolley discovered the nightmare scenario when a follow-up biopsy of her kidneys revealed “no evidence of carcinoma” and “no mass lesion identified.” She called the ordeal “a big mistake,” and told KDVR at the time that she was considering a lawsuit. When asked if she felt the University of Colorado owed her an apology, she replied through tears, “I feel like they owe me a kidney.”

A spokesperson for the University of Colorado Hospital offered no explanation to KDVR about Woolley’s hellish experience, saying simply, “I don’t have any information for you about this.” The station reported that the hospital wouldn’t even acknowledge that Woolley had been a patient, despite the fact that a patient privacy release form she signed indicated she was.

“It is terrifying because you have no choice when you go into a hospital,” she said. “You trust that you’re going to be taken care of.”

Woolley went into cardiac arrest on Jan. 29, a few days before her death. The University of Colorado Hospital did send its condolences to her family, according to KDVR, issuing a statement that read, “Our deepest condolences go out to the family and loved ones. We are committed to providing the highest-quality care for our patients. Unfortunately, we are unable to discuss any specific patients because of federal and state laws that protect patients’ privacy.”

Linda Woolley was an avid equestrian and enjoyed horseback riding with her daughter. (Photo: GoFundMe)
Linda Woolley was an avid equestrian and enjoyed horseback riding with her daughter. (Photo: GoFundMe)

One of Woolley’s daughters, Heidi Haines, told KDVR that she had been planning to donate a kidney to her mother.

I thought I was going to be able to fix it, and now I won’t get the chance,” she said.

Haines said that her mother was also anticipating being added to the national kidney transplant waitlist — the wait time is three to five years and sometimes longer, according to the National Kidney Foundation — and was scheduled to have a stress test next week as a final step in the process.

“It was bad enough when she was here and she was miserable, but at least she was here,” Haines said.

Woolley’s daughter Jodi Fournier told KDVR she knows her mother would still be alive if doctors had not wrongly removed her kidneys. “There’s a few things the kidneys regulate, one of them being potassium,” Fournier told the station. “And when you don’t have them you have the dialysis that removed those toxins in your body. Her [potassium] levels were twice what they should have been, and that ultimately caused the cardiac arrest.”

The family has set up a GoFundMe page in Woolley’s memory, paying tribute to “our wild, sassy, and beautiful mother” who suffered “countless complications that followed that horrific event.” They are hoping to use donations “to help with end-of-life celebration costs and future/past expenses.”

Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Haines for comment.

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