Larry William Swilling, 77, of Anderson, SC, has been on the streets with a sign that says: "NEED KIDNEY 4 WIFE." He has been married to Jimmy Sue Swilling, 75, born with one kidney, for 55 years. Her kidney is failing and she needs a new one urgently.
According to Swilling, he was forced to go out to the streets in search for a kidney for his wife because no one in the family is a match for transplant. The Huffington Post reports neither Swilling nor their three children have a blood type that matches Jimmy Sue's. Swilling, according to CNN, has collected six pages of names of total strangers who say they are willing to be tested as potential donors. He said: "I never would have thought that I'd have got this much response to it. I'm amazed by it and I'm so thankful."
CBS reports Larry's decision to seek a live donor is informed by the information that patients who get kidneys from living donors tend to live longer. He told CNN: "I don't care what people think... I love her more now than I believe when I married her because we're not two, we're one... We need each other and we've been together so long."
Swilling walks the streets when he isn't at this work at Consolidated Southern Industry. According to NY Daily News, he walked “from one end of town to the other” last week. He said: “I walked seven and a half miles in about high 80s in degrees, but I wasn’t thinking about that."
According to CBS, he isn't going around town telling people "I sure could use your kidney." He wears a sign that says "Need Kidney 4 wife," and walks the streets hoping people will notice.
Larry said he really did not think his approach would work but he had to do something to fight the feeling of helplessness. He said: "I'm trying. I had to do something." He was surprised when his phone began ringing with people saying they were willing to donate.
One person said on voicemail: "I'm willing to donate a kidney for your wife."
Another said: "I'd like nothing more than to help you out."
Yet another said: "I've got two, I need only one."
CBS reports that in the last few days hundreds of people who saw the sign or heard about it have volunteered.
Swilling's volunteers will be tested this week. Potential donors will go through physical and psychological tests to ensure they are fit for the rigors of transplant surgery. WYFF reports that Mark Johnson of Donate Life said that potential donors need to understand that,"It is truly an operation. With any operation, there are risks. Just because you're wanting to be a donor it does not necessarily mean that you can be a donor. There are a lot of medical considerations to take in place."
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) that manages the US transplant program, kidneys are one of the most needed organs in short supply. CNN reports the National Kidney Foundation says over 90,000 people are on the waiting list for kidney transplants in the US and that last year almost 5,000 people died while on the waiting list for a transplant. UNOS spokesman Joel Newman, said patients often have to wait three to five years for an organ from a deceased donor. Many patients attempt to cut the waiting period short by reaching out to family and friends for a living match.
According to CNN, Swilling is not the first American to appeal to the public for an organ donor. In 2004, a cancer patient Todd Krampitz, placed an ad on highway billboards for a new liver and finally found a match. Hannah Craig, 21, found a kidney donor on Facebook.
Dr. Brian Becker, transplant physician and former president of the National Kidney Foundation, says that in recent years there has been an increase in "altruistic donors." He said: "It is far more common than it was even two years ago for people to step forward." According to Becker there are an increasing number of donor chains where people who can't find a match among friends and relatives can find a match from strangers who donate in the hope that they also will find a match for their relative or friend. Becker said: "These are novel ways that people are trying to identify how to best get kidney donations to the people that need them."
Part of the reason why more people are donating is the high success rate of transplant operations, CNN reports. UNOS data indicate that patients receiving transplants from deceased donors have 90% survival rate at three years and 62% at ten years. According to UNOS, the rate is a little higher for living donor organs.
Kidney transplants have high success rate and a donor can live a normal life span on one kidney.
CBS reports that anyone interested in learning more about being an organ donor for Jimmy Sue or any of the over 90,000 people waiting for a transplant should contact the Medical University of South Carolina Transplant Center: 1-800-277-8687.