This summer, Linda Griggs commissioned a unique, but very important piece of artwork from her artist friend Mary Ellen McNaughton: a 5-foot yard sign advertising Linda's search for a kidney donor.
This was not the first sign in Linda's yard, though. Sadly, the first, smaller one was stolen just three days after Linda put it up. However, the silver lining was that the story of both signs attracted the attention of the media.
"By this time, two local TV stations had gotten wind of the stolen and big signs, and asked for interviews," explained Linda. "Out of those interviews came 70 potential donors, and eventually a qualified donor."
Linda met her donor, Rachel Snyder, for the first time on Oct. 26. Less than two weeks later, the two underwent the transplant surgery.
"[She's] clearly a one-in-a-million heroine," said Linda of Rachel.
The signs were part of Linda's larger effort to find a kidney donor. After learning she would need a transplant, Linda was disappointed to find out that none of her family or friends qualified to be her donor. That's when Karen Godfrey, Linda's "friend and super advocate," connected her to Harvey Mysel, a two-time kidney transplant recipient and the founder of the Living Kidney Donors Network.
"Harvey suggested creating fliers telling your story, developing an 'elevator speech' about your situation to give to everyone you meet and passing out personalized kidney-needed cards," said Linda. "He also suggested making T-shirts and bumper stickers and yard signs for friends and family to use and distribute."
Initially, Linda was skeptical. "I pooh-poohed it all at first. 'If any of that worked,' I reasoned, 'why don't I see or hear about any of that being done around here?'"
Fortunately, through Karen's encouragement, Linda relented and implemented the ultimately successful strategies Harvey suggested.
AKF first learned of Linda's story through her brother, Dave Schropfer. Both Linda and Dave have been living with a rare kidney disease for decades.
"The disease itself is undiagnosed, it may be a variant of Alport's syndrome," said Dave. "We both had unexplained protein and blood in our urine which was detected in our teens. We called it benign hematuria. It turned out not to be benign. Over time our kidney function declined until we faced failure in our late 60's and early 70's."
Fortunately, Dave also received a kidney transplant in September 2018 through a paired kidney exchange. "My wife donated to a stranger, and an altruistic donor, Linda Reedy, donated to me," explained Dave. "Statistically, altruistic donors are one in a million. I am grateful every day."
To show his gratitude, Dave researched organizations he could donate to in honor of his kidney donor, "who donated the gift of life." That's when he found AKF.
"When I did my research, I was drawn to AKF primarily due to the efficient use of the money it receives," said Dave. At AKF, 97 cents of every donated dollar go directly to patients and not to overhead.
Both siblings felt fortunate to find donors before needing to start dialysis treatments and encourage others to consider becoming a living organ donor.
"I wish people realized how much good they could do with a living donation," said Dave. "It is perhaps a month to recover, after which you and the recipient can go on to live a normal life. It is a wonderful gift, perhaps nothing a donor does in life has greater impact."