Facebook helps man find new kidney, hope for future

Need for kidney transplants increasing

RICHMOND, Ind. - For some, Facebook and other social media sites are just entertainment to pass time, but for Jerry Wilde, Facebook is the reason he has time to pass.

Wilde's kidneys failed him in the early 1990s. After two years of dialysis, a process so painstaking it still makes him cringe today, he received a kidney transplant.

That organ lasted him almost two decades until a cancer diagnosis three years ago.

Wilde was cured of cancer, but he was back on dialysis.

"You know that day you had the flu? That you just felt the worst? It's like that all the time, every day," he said, explaining what dialysis feels like.

As an Indiana University East professor , Wilde never missed class, even during treatments, but the 18 hours a week in dialysis left him with little energy and, at times, little hope.

"You live through the day, through the week, and that's it," he said.

Leah Hostalet was a student of Wilde's at the time. She'd taken every class he offered; his ability to inspire led Hostalet to true interest in the subject matter.

So, when she saw some of Wilde's Facebook posts about his three-day-a-week treatments to keep him alive, she knew it was time for her to lead.

Hostalet created the "Find a Kidney for Jerry" Facebook page .

"I figured it would work, but I didn't think it would work that fast," she said.

The page quickly circulated through "likes" and "shares." Soon, a woman by the name of Becky Melton was interested in saving Wilde's life.

"It struck me immediately: I'm looking for purpose, this guy needs a kidney, and I have one," Melton said.

Melton and Wilde were complete strangers. Ironically, they lived just miles away from each other in Richmond, Ind.

The pair was a strong match, and Melton's kidney was transplanted to Wilde.

"I've always said, 'Who does something like that? Who goes and has a major surgery for a stranger?' And, I know who that is, it's someone like Becky," Wilde said.

"It's more fulfilling than I could have asked for," Melton said. "We're connected on a whole different level than any other person in my life."

On the day of Wilde's transplant, Hostalet launched a new Facebook page -- "Find a Kidney Central" -- aimed at saving lives all over the country.

The page connects those in need of kidneys with potential living donors in almost every state.

So far, more than 60 people have announced their transplants through the page. Some transplants were thanks to living donors. Other transplants were from deceased donors.

Every day, Hostalet gets new requests from people she's never met to help promote individual pages through "Find a Kidney Central."

When she began the process, Hostalet said she assumed there would be competition among people who needed kidneys -- a kidney for one follower meant one fewer kidney for another -- but that was not the case.

"It's also a place of support because everybody that's there is in need," she said. "They encourage each other and lift each other up."

The need for kidneys is greater than any other organ, and more than 1,200 people in Indiana are waiting for a new kidney, according to the National Kidney Foundation .

Dr. William Goggins, the surgical director for kidney transplantation at IU Health, said he sees the growing need every day.

Goggins performed Wilde's latest transplant.

"There are over 100,000 people waiting for kidney transplants a year. Five years ago, it was 60,000," Goggins said. "So, in order to get people transplants, you need to somehow increase the donor pool."

Goggins said living donors, like Melton, actually save two lives -- one with their own kidney and a second by freeing up a kidney for someone else on the deceased donor waiting list.

Goggins told RTV6 the risk for the donor is minimal, and a donor often lives longer than someone who does not donate. That person typically has lower blood pressure and a lower risk for cardiac disease.

If you're interested in being a living donor or know someone who needs a transplant, click here  (http://on.fb.me/18FhTeu).

Follow Beth Vaughn on Twitter: @bethvaughnrtv6 | Facebook: BethVaughnNews


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