Fort Worth

‘Hero needed’: Fort Worth woman with kidney disease is using car decal to find donor

Fort Worth woman uses car to look for kidney donors

A Fort Worth woman with polycystic kidney disease uses a car decal to try to attract potential donors. A picture of her car was posted to Reddit where at least one person offered to donate their kidney.
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A Fort Worth woman with polycystic kidney disease uses a car decal to try to attract potential donors. A picture of her car was posted to Reddit where at least one person offered to donate their kidney.

Michelle “Shelly” Wheaton needs a kidney. And she’s not bashful about asking for one.

A sign on the back window of her black Infiniti says, “Hero needed. Donate a kidney — Type O.” Her brother’s phone number and an email address are listed.

Her car has drawn attention around Fort Worth and online. At least 125 people have seen a picture of her car on the social media site Reddit, prompting at least one person to inquire about donating.

Wheaton, 57, found out in 2014 that she has polycystic kidney disease. She had been frequently tired but thought she was healthy until her doctor felt cysts in her abdomen.

“I could not talk about it without bursting into tears or getting emotional,” Wheaton said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, is an inherited disorder where clusters of cysts form inside kidneys causing them to lose function.

When the disease was diagnosed, Wheaton’s kidneys were functioning at 25%. Her kidney function was at 4% as of Tuesday.

Wheaton owns Interior Services, an interior design company she started 17 years before her diagnosis. She now runs the company with a friend from her days at TCU.

After her diagnosis, her close friends and family were tested to see if they could be a match. They were either not a match or had health issues that prevented them from being a donor candidate.

Wheaton has been on the National Transplant Wait List for two years.

“One of the seminars I went to I heard the statistic: A (donated) living kidney lasts twice as long as a deceased donor kidney, and that to me was like a light bulb moment,” Wheaton said.

From that came the campaign called “A Kidney for Shelly.” Wheaton, her friends, and family gave out postcards and brochures asking people to consider donating. And she added the sign on the back of her car.

To Wheaton’s knowledge she has had at least eight potential donors go through testing. As of Monday, a donor with the same blood type was undergoing tests to see if he or she is eligible to donate. The donor’s final testing will be from Sept. 23-25.

Wheaton does dialysis as she is going through the process to get a donor kidney.

People interested in donating can email akidney4shelly@gmail.com or call 817-637-8774.

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