Waiting for a donor kidney is like waiting for a bus, Mary Ellen DeBold says.
She imagines standing downtown on a blustery winter day, her eyes tearing because of the icy wind. She thinks she sees her bus coming, but it turns out to be a truck. The bus finally arrives, but it is full. A second bus comes, "but it's the liver bus, and I need the kidney bus."
DeBold, who has been on local and national waiting lists since both kidneys failed three years ago, shared the allegory Thursday during a Mercy Hospital ceremony kicking off National Donate Life Month, which seeks to increase public awareness of organ donation.
A Buffalo resident whose kidney disease resulted from 30 years of diabetes, DeBold has not let her disability, or two transplants that fell through, defeat her.
A son, Eddie, volunteered a kidney, but doctors found an anomaly in the organ. A second donor organ was brought to Buffalo General Hospital, where DeBold waited in the operating room, but turned out to be too large.
DeBold undergoes dialysis three times a week, but still functions as an Erie County senior services caseworker. A woman of deep faith, she says she draws strength from the people who almost daily offer to help in some way, and from her husband, Louis. "Without God and him, I couldn't do this," she said.
She shared the podium with Dale Mcguire, a Mercy Hospital registered nurse who also hopes to receive a donated kidney, and Darlene Aymerich, a registered nurse from Akron who not only donated a kidney to her brother, but -- after her daughter, Shannon Miller, was fatally injured in a 1996 car accident -- donated the 27-year-old's organs.
"The only positive thing that came out of the worst day of my life is that Shannon lives on through others," said Aymerich, who said organ and tissue donation is something everybody should consider.
A recent study indicated that nine of 10 Americans support donation but only a third know the procedures for committing to donation, which differ from state to state, says Upstate New York Transplant Services, which will spread the word during events this month.
In New York State, people can commit by signing a donor card or the back of their driver's license. Or they can enroll in the state donor register at www.unyts.org.
"This is the month to talk about it," Aymerich said.
Back at the imaginary bus stop, DeBold sees neighbors and relatives driving by, waving. "They must think my bus will be along any minute. Why don't they take time to find out how long I have been waiting on this corner or exactly what's going on?" she wonders.
"We need more buses, and we need our friends, relatives and neighbors to pull over when they see us waiting. They can do something about it -- they need to become more informed. We need to encourage them to sign a donor card and tell others to do the same."