A Calgary shop teacher who bought billboards across the province in search of a living kidney donor has finally found a match.
Ryan McLennan was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2003 and, with 6 per cent kidney function, he took a unique approach to finding a donor.
In February, Ryan and his wife Shakina McLennan purchased 27 billboards around Calgary and Edmonton.
Nine months later, McLennan found a match and willing donor with 47-year-old Tony Timmons, a complete stranger from Airdrie.
Timmons said he saw the billboards and, while he had never met Ryan, decided to sign up.
“His story about his mother just struck a bone with me,” Timmons said. “After that, I was like, if it was me in the hospital, I’d want someone to do it for me.”
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Ryan’s mother, Elaine Austin, had donated one of her kidneys to him in 2002, which meant the second time around proved even more difficult to find a match.
In a Facebook post, Ryan thanked Timmons for his incredible gift.
“What do you say to someone who is about to save your life? Someone who has come forward and is willing to offer you the most beautiful gift?” he wrote in the post.
“And you ask them, ‘Why? Why help me?’ And they say, ‘Because I can and I would want the same for me!’ It’s the most amazing feeling and you thank them and you dig deep because to you…without their gift you know you will struggle every day with pain and sickness.”
Ryan told Global News Saturday he is still shocked and extremely overwhelmed by the gesture.
“It’s hard to believe. You always hope and pray that someone will come forward and do it. You don’t know what to say, what to do or how to thank them,” Ryan said.
“One of the things we talked about was, ‘Why? What made you do this?’ And he said, ‘I just would want someone to do the same for me.'”
Timmons said he had to undergo a lot of tests to check to see if he was a match, and in early October, he received the call that confirmed it.
“I said, ‘I’d give it a go and get ‘er done,’” Timmons said.
The pair is scheduled to undergo surgery next week, and while Timmons has had surgery before, he said he is a bit anxious.
“It’s hard not to be a little nervous, I guess,” he said.
According to the Kidney Foundation, 45 Albertans died in 2017 waiting for an organ donation. The waiting list for an organ from a deceased donor can be up to 10 years.