A Calgary man has resorted to purchasing a flashy billboard advertisement and using vehicle decals in search of finding a willing organ donor.
Ryan McLennan’s kidney is deteriorating, and at five per cent kidney function, his wife took matters into her own hands, which led to the unconventional plea.
“I never wanted to tell anyone I was sick because I don’t want to be known as the sick guy. But now I need help,” McLennan said on Thursday.
At first, the pair created a Facebook page. From there, they turned to billboards and vehicle signage.
In total, there are 27 billboards in Calgary and Edmonton displaying McLennan’s message.
In addition, they have at least five vehicles that travel between Alberta and Saskatchewan with decals conveying a similar message. McLennan’s parents live in Estevan, Sask. and travel to Calgary frequently and said a few people have already called them about their son’s situation.
“It does give me hope… before I never thought we’d find anyone but maybe just maybe… if we keep pushing forward, we might be able to find someone who can come forward and donate,” he said.
But the McLennans’ story isn’t unique.
A Crossfield, Alta. woman turned to YouTube to find a donor for her husband, who still requires a new kidney. “I’m begging, I’m pleading with the world,” Stacy Boggs said in her video.
In Toronto, a mother put out a newspaper ad, asking anyone to donate a kidney so she could continue being a mother to her 12-year-old daughter. A complete stranger answered that call.
And in the U.S., a father of five also received a kidney transplant from a complete stranger, thanks to a T-shirt he wore around Disney World.
The post went viral, garnering more than 90-thousand shares, and led to a willing donor – who was also a complete stranger.
According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, 45 Albertans died last year waiting for an organ donation.
The wait-list for an organ from a deceased donor can be up to 10 years. There are no statistics that track the success of this sort of approach but anecdotally, the foundation said they see a spike in calls when there’s a social media push.
“Whenever anything like that happens, we get more phone calls, the transplant people get more phone calls… We encourage all of it,” said Joyce Van Deurzen, the executive director of the Kidney Foundation’s southern Alberta chapter.
“We’re seeing a lot of campaigns from people who are in desperate need of an organ transplant. They’re searching for living donors… it gets the word out.”
According to Alberta Health Services, the living kidney transplant program saw 62 people donate a kidney. At the end of 2017, there were 310 people in the province on the wait-list.