November 28, 2014

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Woman creates Facebook page to help her mother find a kidney

Priscilla Bidlake had no intention of joining the world of Facebook. And she certainly had never heard of a “fan page.”

“What I would like people to remember is that in this country 100,000 people are waiting for just a kidney, but only about 11,000 are donated every year. The need is great,” Priscilla Bidlake said. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

“What I would like people to remember is that in this country 100,000 people are waiting for just a kidney, but only about 11,000 are donated every year. The need is great,” Priscilla Bidlake said. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

Then fate — and failing kidneys — stepped in. Unable to ignore the opportunities that social media provides, Priscilla jumped on the Facebook bandwagon in hopes of harnessing the social media juggernaut to locate a donor.

Her daughter, Shea Altmont, created a Facebook page titled “Just One for Mom.”

Her goal was twofold: to find a working kidney for her mother, and to make others aware of the dire need for organ donation.

Click here to view more photos.

For Priscilla, it’s been a role reversal after serving as a paramedic in Lorain County for nearly 30 years. She had a passion for her job and for taking care of others. She never imagined a day when someone else would be taking care of her.

Beginning the journey

In 2005, Priscilla started feeling fatigued and nauseous on a regular basis, but at first she was able to ignore the symptoms.

It was not until she went on vacation with her husband, John, that she realized something serious might be going on. Priscilla and John went away to Missouri, hoping a trip to relax would help her feel better. It didn’t.

“I remember eating breakfast with John one day and then immediately feeling sick afterwards,” she said. “I had to run to the bathroom and throw up. I didn’t think I was going to make it out of the bathroom that day.”

Shortly after returning home, Priscilla’s general practioner ran tests on her and found that her kidneys were functioning at a dangerously low 15 percent. Priscilla was diagnosed with kidney failure from an unknown etiology and immediately was put on dialysis.

Since that moment, Priscilla’s daily routine has been thrown into a blender. She now recieves dialysis three times a week for four grueling hours at a time. She said the dialysis process is extremely draining and she often does not have enough energy to continue on with her day. With hemo-dialysis, that’s understandable. During this process, Priscilla has all of her blood drained, cleaned and then pumped back into her system.

“After dialysis I pretty much have to spend the entire day resting,” she said.

While she admits it’s overwhelming to have so much support from friends and family, there’s a major loss she can’t ignore.

“The complications with my kidneys have caused me to quit a career I loved very much,” she said.

Social media

Not content to sit and wait, Shea employed the use of QR codes, which she placed on magnets and flyers to encouraging people to visit the Just One for Mom page. A QR code is a two-dimensional symbol that is readable by QR readers, found in most smartphones. When a person scans the code, he will be taken to the Just One for Mom page.

“Our page seems to be growing on a pretty consistent basis,” Shea said. “Every day or so I log on and see that a few more people have liked our page.”

Chuck Heald, community outreach director for LifeBanc in Cleveland, trumpets the power of social media.

“Facebook allows people to share their personal story with others and many times these stories touch someone’s heart,” Heald said, adding that the main reason LifeBanc uses social media is to inspire and educate people to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor.

Fighting spirit

Finding inspiration in her surroundings has proven valuable for Priscilla. One of her favorite sayings — and one she tries to emulate — comes from the award-winning movie “Shawshank Redemption.”

The saying, “Get busy living or get busy dying,” motivates her on a daily basis.

She also need look no further than the world at arm’s length. She has two dogs, a loving husband, a large family and a beautiful home in Oberlin that keeps her going.

“The struggle with my kidneys has not been an easy one,” Priscilla said. “But the love and support my family has given me has carried me through.”

If things go as planned, that love and support also will carry Priscilla through her final three semesters of nursing school at Lorain County Community College.

“I loved my job as paramedic,” she said. “Unfortunately, that job is too demanding, so I can definitely see myself working with infants or somewhere else within the medical field.”

Helping others

Priscilla said receiving a kidney would obviously change her life, but she ultimately wants to use her Facebook page as a way to make others aware of organ donation. Fueling this vision is Shea’s desire to help others.

“I originally decided to create the page to help my mother find a kidney, but then I started researching organ donation and started feeling strongly about increasing awareness for being an organ donor,” said Shea, who works as the communications manager for the Delaware County District Library System. “It’s my hope that the Facebook page is applicable to others. There are so many stories out there that I wouldn’t have heard about if it wasn’t for Facebook.

“This page has become a place for people to share and learn helpful information when it comes to organ donation.”

Organ donation

  • There are 110, 541 patients waiting for a current transplant
  • Anyone can be an potential organ donor
  • There were 28,663 organ transplants performed in 2010
  • Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list
  • An average of 18 people die daily from the lack of available organs for transplant
  • 90 percent of Americans say they support donation, but only 30 percent know the essential steps to take to be a donor
  • You can register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor at donatelife.net/register-now or at lifebanc.org.

Getting an organ

  • To receive an organ, a person must be placed on the national waiting list. To be placed on this list, a person must visit a transplant hospital. Doctors will then perform an examination to make sure the patient is a candidate for a transplant. If the person is determined to be a good transplant candidate, they are then placed on the national waiting list.
  • The next part involves waiting until an organ has been located. When an organ becomes available, all the patients on the list are evaluated to determine compatibility.

Contact Christina Graw at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.