A Polycystic Kidney Disease Patient’s Advertisement for a Kidney Donor Finds a Surprising Match


By Rachel Whetstone from In The Cloud Copy

Shelly Wheaton began a car sign campaign in September to look for a live kidney donor. She was on dialysis because of tumors which were shutting down her kidneys. She recently found her donor, and the match was someone she didn’t expect.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Wheaton has polycystic kidney disease (PKD). The disease causes numerous fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys. As the cysts grow in number and size, they can damage the kidneys, causing eventual failure.

Sometimes they spread to other organs as well as the kidneys. Cysts can grow in the spleen, pancreas, liver, large bowel, or ovaries. They can even form in the heart or brain, which can very quickly cause a life-threatening situation.

Back or side pain, urinary tract infections, blood in the urine, and high blood pressure can be early signs of PKD. About 25% of patients also experience a pounding or fluttering feeling in the heart or chest.

PKD is usually diagnosed by ultrasound. Approximately 600,000 people have PKD in the United States.

Living Kidney Donors

Unlike many other organ donations, a kidney donation can be made while the donor is still alive. Most people are born with two kidneys, but only one is needed to function and be healthy. The remaining kidney increases in size to compensate for the missing kidney. Most people with only one kidney go on to live normal lives. They do need to take extra care to make sure there is no injury to the remaining kidney and they’re encouraged to attend regular checkups.

The Perfect Match

Shelly Wheaton was hopeful that her car sign would reach a match for a donor. She got an unexpected surprise when a match was found in someone she knew: hairstylist Andrea Newsom, who had been doing Wheaton’s hair for the past 2 decades. Newsom was eager for the chance to help her client.

Since Wheaton would have died without ongoing dialysis or a donor, she considers Newsom a true hero. Newsom felt a calling to share her kidney and thinks that she’s just doing what she’s supposed to do.

The kidney transplant was set for November 20 at a hospital in Fort Worth.

In appreciation for Newsom’s generosity, Wheaton set up a GoFundMe page to help Newsom with expenses and cost of care from the four weeks that she was out of work for her recovery.

A Need for Donors

Wheaton and Newsom hope that their story inspires others to consider kidney donation. They also emphasize that there are many ways to help those in need of kidneys, even for people who are unable to donate personally. For those who are unable to give a kidney, a donation of time or money to research and awareness organizations can make a big difference for patients in need.

“I think some people feel like they are called to be a donor and others may feel like they want to donate time,” Newsom said. “There is something we can all do to make everything better for everyone.”

Check out the original story here.

Share this post