By Eliza Murphy
One man is taking to the streets in hopes of finding a new kidney.
“People are panhandling for money and he’s panhandling for a kidney,” Dawn-Marie Gray, 41, of Newberg, Ore., told GoodMorningAmerica.com of her husband’s creative ploy to find a live kidney donor.
As often as he’s able, Kevin Gray, 35, stands near Highway 99W in his hometown holding a sign that reads, “Living kidney donor needed,” pointing people to the “Are You My Type” Facebook page his wife set up for him and their close family friend, Michelle Saddoris, who is also in dire need of a new kidney.
“My daughter’s best friend’s mom needs a kidney as well, so we started this Facebook page as a plea for everybody to help them find donors,” said Gray.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Kevin, as the father of three daughters – aged 2, 12 and 17– only found out last May that his kidneys were even bad.
“We found out a year ago that he needed a transplant,” Gray explained. “We thought on almost every level I was going to be a match, but I have horseshoe kidneys. They’re connected at the bottom so there’s no way they could disconnect them to share them with anybody else.”
Once his wife was out of the running as a potential donor, Kevin took the more drastic approach of raising awareness and soliciting donors from the side of the road.
“He can’t stand out there all day. He gets tired,” Gray said of her husband’s efforts. “It’s a hit or miss, but he’ll stand out there as often as he feels that he can.”
Family friend Saddoris, who also needs a kidney, would be right out there with him educating people on how to become a donor, but she’s just “too sick right now,” said Gray.
Both patients started dialysis this year and the process is taking its toll on them physically.
“The minute they hook up to that machine they can’t leave,” Gray said.
Kevin is an A, so he can receive either an O or A as a donor. Saddoris is an O, so she can only receive from an O. The positives and negatives don’t matter, Gray said.
“Everybody please just sign up to be a living donor,” she explained. “That’s what this is all about. If you can’t be Kevin’s donor, be Michelle’s donor. And if you can’t be her donor, be somebody’s donor.”
Since starting the Facebook page and holding the sign in public view, many people have messaged the families letting them know they’ve signed up to be a donor. Now, Gray said, it’s just a waiting game.
“People just don’t know the difference they can make,” she explained. “It’s not just the recipient that benefits. They touch the lives of many.”
More than anything, Gray hopes potential donors realize it’s not just one gift they are giving.
“They are saving the life of my husband. They are saving the father of my children. They are saving the life of my daughter’s best friend’s mother,” she said.
Without a living donor, Gray says there’s a three-year waiting list for a cadaver kidney in Oregon.