Family uses signs, social media to find kidney donors

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December 16, 2013 2:50:05 PM PST
Nearly 100,000 Americans are in need of a kidney transplant. As they wait for a donor, many are taking matters into their hands.

Eric Miller is a mechanical wizard. He transformed a rusted-out 1960's Chevy into a gleaming yellow muscle car from the ground up. But one thing he can't fix is a problem he was born with - his kidneys.

Joan Miller, Eric's mother, explains, "One kidney actually had only 8-percent function, and the other was literally turned inside out. They told us he would absolutely never make one-year-old."

That was 34 years ago. Eric has had two kidney transplants - one with a kidney from his mother and another from an unrelated donor.

Unfortunately, now he needs another.

His father and brother aren't matches. And finding a donor is especially difficult due to antibodies formed from past transplants. So his brother Scott took to the web, looking for help with kidneyquest.com.

Scott says, "We also have Facebook, we have Google+, we have Twitter."

But he says the biggest response came after they planted some simple yard signs, which simply state "Kidney needed" and a link to kidneyquest.com.

"As soon as those yard signs went up, the views just increased," Scott said.

Howard M. Nathan, President and CEO of the Gift of Life Donor Program, knows stories like this one all too well.

Nathan says, "There's 5,400 people just in the Delaware Valley waiting for a kidney transplant."

But Gift of Life doesn't support using social media or yard signs to solicit donors.

"We're trying to make sure everyone is equal in terms of who is waiting for a transplant," explained Nathan.

Still he says no one can blame a family for doing all they can to help. But he hopes signs like these will remind everyone about the need for more organ donors overall.

Until then Eric's family will keep searching.

"He's been fighting, we're fighting with him. That's what parents do," said Joan.

Several people have come forward to be tested. So far, no matches.

Although Eric's story is a bit more unique, he's not alone. Nationally about 98,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant with 5,400 in our region.

Most people say they would like to donate organs after they die, but only about 45-percent sign up.

More information:

www.kidneyquest.com
http://www.dot4.state.pa.us/organ_donor/index.shtml
http://www.sharenj.org/register_to_become_an_organ_donor.htm
https://citizen.dmv.de.gov/public.ejs?command=PublicOdHome


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