It was the end of the summer of 2007, August to be exact. I sat there in my cubicle looking at my computer screen with a blank stare. I started to think about my father. I hadn’t been talking to him for some time. We had been out of touch and it bothered me.
Suddenly, I received a phone call from my sister. Her voice was troubling and she sounded concerned. It was about my father. She told me in those few minutes that our father wasn’t doing well. He was told by his doctor in April that he had 6 months to get a kidney transplant; otherwise he would have to go on dialysis. I knew he had been diagnosed with chronic renal failure a couple months back. She stated to me that he had registered with a hospital in Manhattan to be on the national waiting list in New York.
She said that he thought this was his only option. We spoke about how we were tested in the past as a family. Unfortunately, we were all incompatible due to blood type. Her words inspired me in those few minutes that we spoke. I felt that I had to respond. After all, he was my father, and it didn’t matter to me at that point if we were talking or not.
I had worked as a nurse five years prior to changing careers. I now worked in finance in Manhattan. I knew the national organ transplant waiting list took two to five years to receive a kidney. I also knew that if he waited that long, he would surely be on dialysis. Lastly, I knew when the time came for him to receive a transplant, it would be from a cadaver. I didn’t want to see my father go through dialysis or wait on a list. I kept thinking to myself that there had to be a way out of this mess, a quick fix.
The website was a marketing tool. You could create ads for various things at no charge. The site provided basically free advertising.had been quite successful in the past, so we figured why not for our father? Why not for a kidney?
The idea came shortly after getting off the phone with my sister. We both agreed that we would use a website called craigslist to find a donor for our father. In the past, my sisters and I had used this website for finding jobs, selling furniture, and finding childcare. It was even a community for meeting people, contacts, and friends. It was a great outlet for gaining exposure as it serviced people within the states and those outside the United States. It was a website that you could use as a marketing tool. You could create ads for various things at no charge. The site provided basically free advertising. It was great because you could choose where to place your ad and in return you received great exposure. The website had been quite successful in the past, so we figured why not for our father? Why not for a kidney?
I started typing away at my desk at work. The ad read: “Please help me find a kidney for my dad.” It sounded desperate but it’s what came to my mind at the time. I also placed all our personal contact information on the ad. I knew he didn’t have much time as I remembered my sister telling me that he had 6 months to receive a transplant otherwise he would need dialysis. Those words scattered through my head like butterflies.
A week went by and one person responded, a man from New York City. He stated he worked in substance abuse counseling and wanted to donate. While speaking to him for about a few weeks, his stories would change and he was never consistent. It turns out he was mentally sick. I kept posting ads along with my sisters, thinking to myself that there was still hope.
Out of the disappointments, came words of encouragement and empathy. It was great to see these people reaching out to our family and to our father.
It was now fall and the changing of the leaves reminded us to continue our search. It gave us a feeling that this was a time of renewal and so we began posting more ads. A few days later, all of us received several emails from numerous people who were just reaching out. It was quite amazing. Then came the few people that wanted monetary rewards for donating their kidney. We knew that selling organs was illegal and so we dismissed them. Out of the disappointments, came words of encouragement and empathy. It was great to see these people reaching out to our family and to our father. People were also praying for us from all over the United States. They helped us deal with the disappointments as we continued on our mission to save our father. They gave us hope and that is what kept us going.
Finally, it was October and a local news radio reporter saw our ad on craigslist. It just so happened that she was an old classmate of ours from school, but we hadn’t spoken to in years. She wanted to interview my sisters and I along with our parents. She thought the story was compelling and that she would be able to relay the message to the public. She had stated that once we completed the interview, we would be getting more media attention along with obtaining more donors.
People kept contacting us wanting to donate. We started to compile a list. Many fell through the cracks as they had medical issues or just weren’t genuine donors. Some were scams.
A day later, our cell phones would not stop ringing. We began getting reporters calling from all the national news stations. My sisters arranged the media to come to my parent’s home. They soon came in hordes wanting to hear our story. They interviewed us and shortly afterwards, we were on national news along with being in the local newspaper. We couldn’t believe everything that was going on!
We were shocked that our idea had brought attention to so many. The reporters couldn’t believe what an amazing idea it was to post an ad on this website for a kidney donor. They stated the website had never been used as a medical venue before. Once again, we didn’t know this. We just posted the ad because we knew we had to find a way to save our father’s life.
In the days that followed, we received numerous calls. Most were within the United States, however, some were international as well. People kept contacting us wanting to donate. We started to compile a list. Many fell through the cracks as they had medical issues or just weren’t genuine donors. Some were scams. We also were working with the hospital that my father had registered with in Manhattan. They started giving us problems with the few donors we had. We soon realized that the hospital we were working with didn’t believe in altruistic donation. However, they had told us on the first interview that they were open to it, even though they didn’t do many unrelated kidney transplant surgeries. We actually don’t know the real truth. For four months, we thought that everything was fine and that they accepted our situation. However, many times their communication with us was unprofessional and unpromising. We felt they also didn’t like the fact we had control over the situation. We had found an alternative way out of the “medical module” to obtain a donor for our father. You would think they would be proud of our efforts, however they were not. They led us to believe all along they would do the surgery and yet it never happened. Lastly, they scared off our donors by giving them false information and stating to them that we were compatible donors with our father. They also pushed their SWAP program on to our donors while stating to them that my father wasn’t even on dialysis yet. They wanted to use our donors for their SWAP program so they could increase their kidney transplant surgeries.
In October, we received good news that our donor was medically cleared after all her secondary testing. We were all so happy and grateful that our journey had ended. Our father received the gift of life on December 12, 2008 from Dawn Verdick.
In return, they would be gaining publicity. We believed it was all about money and recognition for them, that they didn’t care about our father or our situation. Once our donors notified us of what the hospital was telling them, we immediately contacted the transplant team. But of course, they denied everything. With all the chaos, the few donors we had became disinterested and fed up with waiting for the hospital to get back to us. As a result, we lost our donors. We were now back to square one.
Despite the news, we just kept remembering the positive people who continued to reach out to us. We decided it was time to find another hospital even though we had no donors. My father was getting weaker. I began giving him Procrit injections every weekend whereas before it was every other week. I began posting ads along with my sisters every day in almost every state I could. We started to change the ads around so that we could expand our search. It was now January 2008, as I sat there once again at work in my cubicle focused on getting a donor for my father.
After a few weeks went by, our cell phones were ringing again. People were responding from everywhere, willing to donate. We figured this time around, we would screen them more thoroughly. We began asking them why they wanted to donate, their past medical history, and their blood type. We then responded to them through email and contacted them over the phone after each of us left for home from our 9 to 5 jobs. As a family, our nights consisted of talking about these donors and finding a hospital. My relationship with my father grew stronger as I continued to fight for his life right along with my sisters.
My sisters began going to the local hospital’s meetings on kidney transplants and met David Koster, the first unrelated living donor transplant surgeon at Westchester Medical Center. He referred us to this hospital right away as he wanted to help us.
We immediately set up an appointment to meet with the transplant team. They greeted our father with open arms and stated they believed in unrelated living donation. They stated they had done these surgeries quite frequently. We began coordinating my dad’s evaluation along with scheduling these donors to get their blood drawn. We arranged blood kits to be sent to our donors out of state under the hospital’s medical supervision.
Our donors would get their blood tested at their local lab or doctor’s office. Instructions were also enclosed in the kit the hospital sent out. Once the donors received the instructions with the kit, they were told to contact the hospital. After getting their blood tests done, our donors had to also FedEx their blood back to New York within a 24hr time frame. With time on our backs, we had two great potential donors tested outside of New York. Unfortunately, one donor disappeared but the other continued to work with us.
In May 2008, we were working with one donor. She was going through secondary testing. At the same time, we received a special email from a woman out in Monterey, California. She wanted to donate to our father. She had lost a special person who was a mother figure to her and she felt the need to give back to the universe. From speaking to her on the phone, we felt like we had known her all along. Our first phone call was in Central Park, her favorite place in New York. On June 4th, she followed up with us and from there the hospital began to screen her.
We wanted to make sure she was the same blood type as our father so we could use her as a backup if needed. We continued to have her as a backup but our current donor was almost cleared for surgery. Unfortunately, we found out in late July that our donor was being ruled out by a last minute medical condition. We were saddened by the news; however, we had a backup, our last chance. I contacted our donor from California. From July through November, secondary testing began on our donor from California. Her workup had to be done out in California then redone in New York.
In October, we received good news that our donor was medically cleared after all her secondary testing. We were all so happy and grateful that our journey had ended. Our father received the gift of life on December 12, 2008 from Dawn Verdick. She is a very special person to our family as she saved our father’s life. It was truly a miracle to witness this whole life-changing experience for both of them. Our mission was complete as our father was healthy again. However, our desire to help others only became stronger.
We started a non-profit kidney foundation, The Flood Sisters Kidney Foundation of America, along our journey to educate the public on kidney disease and organ donor awareness. We also provide a matching service for donors and patients to find each other on our website. Our story is not about us anymore, it is about spreading awareness to the world.
Article uploaded 2-28-2009
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