MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — Johnny Johnson Jr. of Madison has a big favor to ask. “It would mean the world to me, my family as well,” he said.
He is looking for someone to donate a kidney.
Johnson Jr. told News 19 he had been battling Kidney Disease for “about 5 or 6 years” when his health took a turn in 2020.
“I got sick with COVID and the Flu, at the same time,” he said. “Once I was able to beat that, my kidney function decided it didn’t want to work anymore.”
Johnson Jr. has a wife and two young daughters. They moved to north Alabama in 2017, when Johnson Jr. was working with the Federal Public Defender’s office in Huntsville.
However, he said he had to stop working in April of 2022, when dialysis treatments became too much to balance with work.
Now, his attention has been shifted to finding a living kidney donor.
Johnson Jr. explained he is on the transplant list at UAB and Vanderbilt, however it’s a long time to wait.
“It’s usually at least a four to five-year wait” he said.
He said he’s also exhausted all options when it comes to finding a donor he already knows.
“I’ve talked to all of my family members and friends and I’m pretty much out of living donor candidates within my circle,” said Johnson Jr.
Eager to get back to a healthier lifestyle, he decided to try something that might get a lot of people’s attention.
He put up a billboard advertisement at a busy street corner in Madison.
The billboard ad reads: “I need a Kidney. Can you help?” and includes a picture of Johnson Jr. and his email address. That email address is Johnson2jr@hotmail.com.
It sits at the corner of Balch Road and Gillespie Road in Madison, next to the Shell station.
Until Johnson Jr. finds a kidney donor, he will have to continue dialysis treatment three times per week.
Dr. Michael Hanaway, the Surgical Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at UAB, said dialysis can take a toll. “Outside of the fact that they don’t like it, dialysis is hard on the body,” he said.
“Expecting people to stay on dialysis for five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years sometimes, is a great deal to ask,” said Dr. Hanaway. “A lot of the people we see in clinic, you know a lot of them will comment that it’s a huge chunk out of their life.”
“They have to dialyze for three to four hours a day, three times a week, oftentimes those days that they have to dialyze, they don’t feel very good, so it’s essentially half of your week that’s kind of taken up by getting ready and going through dialysis.”
Dr. Hanaway said he thinks Johnson Jr.’s billboard is a great idea. “That’s been done in the past and it’s been successful,” he said.
He said getting the word out is the best way to maximize your options.
“There are a lot of studies out there indicating there are a lot of people out there who would be willing to donate a kidney if they knew somebody who needed one,” said Dr. Hanaway.
Dr. Hanaway told News 19 the best candidates for donors are people who are close in age to the person who needs the kidney, and are in great health for their age.
“I think the kind of situation we try to avoid is someone in their 60’s donating to someone in their 20’s,” Dr. Hanaway said. “If it is within ten years of your age, I think that that’s probably going to be okay.”
If you are interested in donating a kidney through UAB, Dr. Hanaway said the first step would be to fill out a screening form.
He said from there, people who meet the initial qualifications will be brought into the clinic for a day of testing.
Dr. Hanaway said it is important to note that not everyone is a match for a specific person. So even if you can’t help Johnson Jr. or another person you intended to help, you could still give someone else a life-saving gift.
“If they’re not a fit for me,” Johnny Johnson Jr. said, “they may be a fit for someone else who’s waiting on a kidney”.
Johnson Jr. said he hopes the billboard or this news story is able to reach someone who can help him. He said the billboard ad went up earlier this week, and News 19 was the first to reach out.
He said receiving a kidney donation would be the greatest gift.
“It would mean the world to me, and I think it would mean the world to my family as well,” he said. “I’m really anxious to get back started on what I was doing, and it would be something that I would be totally in debt to them for life, for giving me new life and a new start.”
You can reach Johnny Johnson Jr. by email at Johnson2jr@hotmail.com.