Mom Asks Facebook for Kidney Donation

Photo by Kendall Rodiguez/New York Daily News: Ian Valerio, Elaine De Leon, with son Elijah, and daughters Emilie and Ellie. 

A New York City mother-of-three is making a public plea on Facebook for a kidney donation before her condition worsens.

Elaine De Leon, 35, of Washington Heights, New York was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2010 and after the birth of her now 2-month-old son, her kidneys — then only functioning at 28 percent — fell to 12 percent, according to a story published recently by the New York Daily News. In an effort to find a donor quickly (her family in the Dominican Republic and her boyfriend Ian Valerio, 37, are not a match), De Leon asked for help on Facebook. “I need YOU to save my life,” she wrote on a community Facebook page. “Would you be willing to save me??? Would you please take a blood test and see if you would be compatible to me. You see I need a kidney donor ASAP. I want to live and I need your help.”

De Leon’s doctor, Anthony Valeri, M.D., of Columbia University Medical Center, told the New York Daily News that De Leon needs a kidney within three months or she’ll have to undergo dialysis which would extend her lifespan by only 10 to 20 years.

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The purpose of the kidneys is to filter blood, remove waste, balance out electrolytes, and create and collect urine. Kidney disease (defined as a kidney abnormality or damage) can often be genetic or caused by factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or in extreme cases, urinary tract infections. Chronic kidney disease can also lead to kidney failure, in which case a patient requires dialysis or a transplant. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 101,170 people are currently waiting for kidney donations, 12 of which will die each day during their wait. When a match is made, donors undergo a procedure called laparoscopic surgery to extract the kidney, which is then implanted in the recipient during a three-hour procedure. Afterward, the kidney begins functioning right away, particularly in cases where the donor and recipient are genetically similar.

“If a person’s kidney is functioning at around 10 percent, symptoms range from fatigue, swollen limbs, weight gain, heart strain, and difficulty breathing,” Mikel Prieto, M.D., Surgical Director of the Kidney and Transplant Program at the Mayo Clinic, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Unfortunately, we don’t have enough kidneys for everyone and the number of people in need is growing. Depending on where a patient lives, he or she can be on a waiting list for anywhere from two to eight years and would receive dialysis in the meantime.”

De Leon, a former legal assistant, who struggles with walking and breathing, is most worried about her children, Elijah, 2 months old, Emilie, 9, and Ellie, 6. “Without me, they all go their separate ways,” De Leon told the New York Daily News. “I want them to grow up as a family.” She adds, “My eldest daughter gets mad whenever anyone talks about it — and I get it, she doesn’t want to think I’m going to die.”

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Appealing to the public may help De Leon quickly find a donor. In 2013, a South Carolina man named Larry Swilling hit the streets wearing a sandwich board that read, “Need Kidney 4 Wife” for nearly a year. His spouse Jimmie Sue Swilling was born with only one kidney, which was failing. After Larry’s mission was covered by Yahoo News, a female retired Navy lieutenant commander offered her kidney and the operation took place on September 11, 2013, to honor the men and women who perished during the 911 terror attacks in 2001. And this past October, a 49-year-old police officer in Georgia battling stage five kidney disease, posted a photo to Facebook of his wife and two daughters holding a sign that read, “Our daddy needs a kidney!” After hundreds of people offered to donate, a healthcare consultant in Texas was chosen as a match. That same month, a 34-year-old mother-of-two in England received a kidney donation from a former prisoner after placing an ad in her local newspaper. The ex-inmate, a father to four children, had been imprisoned for assault and said he wanted to donate his kidney to make amends for his crimes.