Family uses Facebook page to help people find kidney donors

Termell Jackson usually goes to Facebook to post photos from the beach or Georgia Southern University football games.

This time, the Statesboro man hopes it will help him find a kidney donor.

Jackson, 28, who has chronic kidney disease because of complications from high blood pressure and diabetes, recently turned to the social media site to find a potential kidney donor. He’s currently on dialysis.

His post was read by Mallory Avera, who also went to Statesboro High School. She has offered to donate a kidney if tests determine they are a match.

“I was just hoping that my story would reach someone and they would donate their kidney,” said Jackson, a security guard at East Georgia Regional Medical Center. “I was just giving it a shot. I’m just praying that it will pay off.”

Avera said they would see each other around, but she never knew about his illness until she saw the Facebook post, which resulted in dozens of calls.

“When I read about his story, it just broke my heart,” said Avera.

The two reconnected on a Facebook page set up by a Greensboro, Ga., family in 2014 to help connect people who need a kidney transplant with those willing to donate.

The page, “Our Daddy Needs a Kidney — Team Callaway,” has nearly 27,000 likes.

Kristi Callaway started the page after her husband, Raleigh, then a 49-year-old police detective, was diagnosed by doctors at Emory Healthcare with stage 5 kidney disease. None of his surviving siblings were a suitable match. The thought of “dialysis was ridiculously scary for us,” she said. “It’s something that a ton of people do every day, but if it were something we could avoid, we were going to do everything to do so.”

Their story went viral.

“As soon as I posted it, my phone started going berserk with shares,” said Kristi Callaway. “People everywhere were either sending prayers and offering to get tested.” Emory Healthcare, where Callaway would have the transplant, received more than 1,500 calls.

Among those reaching out was Chris Carroll, from McKinney, Texas, who was tested and found to be a match. The transplant took place that year, and both are doing well.

“I was looking online and I saw the story,” said the 52-year-old health care consultant. “This feeling came over me that I needed to call. Pretty quickly, I realized this was God speaking to me and I was being called by him to do this. “

The two families have developed a close relationship.

He has no regrets. “I only wish I had more kidneys, so I could donate them. When I die, I’ll donate that one, but I’ll need it till then.”

The Callaways had such an overwhelming response on Facebook that they decided to keep the page up and use it to help others in need of a kidney transplant.

“It just seemed selfish not to let those people who wanted to help Raleigh have the opportunity to help someone else,” Kristi Callaway said.

So far, it’s helped 11 others find donor matches. Kristi Callaway’s mother even stepped up and donated a kidney to someone featured on the page.

Among those helped is Dustin Brown, 28, a National Guardsman who received a kidney from Temple Jeffords, a former Marine, after he posted his plea for help on Callaway’s Facebook page. He received offers from as far away as Alaska and California.

“It was really kinda nice to see people willing to help,” said Brown, who lives in Flowery Branch and is married with a 5-year-old child. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

Jeffords saw Brown’s appeal for help on the Callaways’ Facebook page and decided immediately to get tested to see if he could become a living kidney donor.

“We always take care of our own,” he said.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are currently over 100,000 people in the United States awaiting a kidney transplant.

Facebook pages like the Callaways’ are one of the newest tools for those needing transplants, said Dr. Nicole Turgeon, a kidney transplant surgeon and surgical director of the Paired Kidney Donor Exchange Program at Emory Healthcare.

“This initiative has really brought living kidney donations to the forefront of people’s minds,” she said. “It really puts a human face to living donations and the need for kidney transplants.”

Turgeon said a living donor is also a better option. People can live healthy lives with just one kidney.

The donated kidneys last longer after transplant, and patients don’t have to get on a waiting list, which can take years. In Georgia, patients on a transplant waiting list can wait between three and five years — or even longer — for a kidney. “As you can imagine, you don’t get healthier as you’re waiting for a kidney. Even some people on the waiting list can suffer because then they become too sick for a transplant.”

Emory performs about 250 to 275 kidney transplants annually, of which 112 are from living donors.

Avera, 24, a college student who lives in Metter, hopes she can help Jackson. She said her parents and boyfriend were initially worried about how it would affect her health, but now she said they are supportive.

“Helping another person is something I’ve always wanted to do, unless it affects my health,” she said. “I just hate that he’s in this situation, but I’m happy I can help.”

Related:

With help of kidney donors, Alpharetta man keeps beating the odds

First uterus transplant in the U.S. was a brief success

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