(Story written by Elyse Chengery)
I was going to Cleveland for Thanksgiving in November of 2018 when I saw a white car in front of me with a message written on the back stating ‘I NEED A KIDNEY’ with a phone number below it. I gave the number a call and after talking with Jeanne she explained that she was diagnosed 10 years ago with chronic kidney disease. She was gradually losing kidney function and placed on a waiting list two years prior for a kidney. Family and friends did not match so she turned to social media, church bulletins and then her car for help. Jeanne says her sons are 10 years apart, loves her boys dearly and was just hoping that maybe one day she can see grandchildren and help them with directions of their life even though they’re grown adults. She continued hoping everything would happen at the right time. I hoped I could share her story and maybe just maybe someone could help.
The next day I spoke with The National Kidney Foundation to get numbers on how many people were in need of a kidney in Ohio and pitched the news story to a local news station that I was working for at the time. After days of trying to get this story on air it finally happened. I went to Jeanne's home with all my gear to write, shoot and edit the whole story that would air later that day. After the story aired and I posted it to all my social media platforms Jeanne started getting calls. I won't forget when I came home that day and my phone lit up with a text message from Jeanne saying "Elyse you did such a great job putting everything together for the news tonight. I am sitting here with tears running down my face in gratitude for all the phone calls and texts I received. Hopefully God willing one of those that have my blood type are a match for me. I am blessed to have met you and will keep you updated about the process! Thank you! Take care." Jeanne and I remained in touch ever since.
That's where Anna gets involved. Anna saw my story and knew she wanted to help Jeanne so she went to get tested and after confirming a match she was ready to donate a kidney to Jeanne but it got a little more complicated. You need more than just blood type to match and when it came to antibodies not matching Jeanne and Anna thought that was the end of the story. Until, a live donor exchange program was explained. That's when typically you are trying to donate your kidney to someone and it isn't a full match but you are willing to give your kidney to someone else in the exchange program. Then the person you were originally trying to give a kidney to will get one as well. However - you can't get into the exchange program without the kind of pairing like Anna and Jeanne. Anna helped Jeanne get into that program. Jen was also involved in the exchange program and the one to donate her kidney to Jeanne. Jeanne says without meeting Anna who was willing to help her she never would have got into the exchange program and never would have met Jen. Anna's kidney went to another woman in Ohio and Jen's went to Jeanne's. Both Anna and Jen are in their early 30's and Jeanne says she's so grateful that there are people out there who are willing to have a surgery like this to help.
Jeanne got her new kidney on January 14th, 2020.
Little did Jeanne and I know at the time we met that we would remain in touch and have this great news to share that she was able to get a kidney. Jeanne thanks me for helping her by calling that number on her car that day. I'm thrilled that so many people came forward and that even though I was not a match and couldn't help directly with donating I tried the best I could to get this story out there because I knew Jeanne needed help.
I just wanted to share this story with as many people as possible as a sign of hope. Also showing how there are so many good people in this world, people that are willing to help out a complete stranger.
Jeanne says she has a new life now, she has new goals and wants to start volunteering for Lifeline of Ohio soon. She's grateful for this entire process.
Currently 115,000 Americans are waiting for a life-saving transplant today. According to the National Kidney Foundation, in Ohio 3,339 people are waiting for an organ transplant and hundreds more await tissue transplant. It's estimated that 2/3 are waiting on a kidney (2,226). If you would like to try to help one of the thousands of people on the waiting list, visit https://www.kidney.org/.