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Man is a walking billboard to find wife a kidney

6:31 AM, Jan 15, 2014   |    comments
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DENVER- Think about what you would do if someone you loved needed a kidney or liver. Both of those organs can be donated while the donor is still alive, but finding living donors isn't easy.

Gary McCormack of Loveland has become a walking billboard to save his wife's life. Every day he wears a sweatshirt which says, "KIDNEY NEEDED Save a Live Please Call 970-667-7841."

Gary's wife of 52 years, Phyllis, is the one who needs the kidney. She has Polycystic kidney disease, which causes cysts to form in the kidneys. Eventually, they become enlarged and can rupture. PKD has killed nearly every member of Phyllis' family, including her mother, who was on dialysis for 20 years

Phyllis was diagnosed with PKD when she was 40 and has done everything she can to slow the progression.

"I have always exercised. I have always watched what I ate, kept my weight down," Phyllis said.

However, it wasn't enough and Phyllis is now in stage four kidney failure. When Phyllis gets to stage five, she, like her mother, will have to start dialysis. The only way to save her life is a kidney transplant.

According to the American Transplant Foundation, Phyllis is one of 2,400 Coloradans waiting for organ transplant. 2,300 of those people need a kidney or liver. Phyllis' doctors say the best option for her is a living donor.

Many people in Phyllis' situation ask a family member, but she can't. PKD is genetic, so her daughters can't donate. Gary has kidney stones and is diabetic. Phyllis needs what's called an altruistic donor: someone who doesn't even know her, but is willing to give her their kidney.

So, In addition to wearing his sweatshirt, Gary has written letters, which he sent to 95 churches, and made posters, which now hang all over town. A few people have called, but no one is a match.

The American Transplant Foundation says being a living donor is easier than you might think and it starts with a simple blood test .

"That blood test is the only thing the living donor will pay for. Other procedures will be covered by the recipients insurance," said Anastasia Darwish, executive director of the American Transplant Foundation. "With all the advances in medicine, you can stay in the hospital as little as one night and the risks are less than one percent."

Another statistic from the American Transplant Foundation: 115 Coloradans die every year waiting for a kidney or liver transplant.

"If only one out of 50,000 adult Coloradans were to become living donors, we could save all those people who are dying," said Darwish.

One out of 50,000 is all Phyllis needs and Gary's not giving up.

"We just have to learn to be patient. It will come. I am absolutely convinced in my mind we will find a live kidney," said Gary.

To be a kidney donor: you need to be in good physical shape. You can't have kidney stones, heart disease or diabetes. Age is not necessarily an excluding factor. Some donors are in their 50s or even older.

To find out how you can be a living donor, call the American Transplant Foundation at: 303-757-0959. You can also email Anastasia Darwish, executive director of the American Transplant Foundation: anastasia@americantransplantfoundation.org

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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