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Thrive On

More than Just a Face in the Crowd—from Sudden Kidney Failure to a Transplant from a Neighbor

kidney transplant recipient Marcus Edwards with a sign, I Need a Kidney 0 positive
A sign, a need, and random acts of kindness aligned so that Marcus Edwards, a proud father of four, received a new kidney after two years of waiting.

In 2019, Marcus went in for a routine doctor’s appointment for his diabetes and was surprised to be sent to the emergency room (ER) when his nurse noticed extremely high potassium levels. He spent several days in the hospital before being discharged, thinking his health was under control.

Several days later, it became clear his health was still suffering. He took a work trip and needed a wheelchair. When he returned home he went back to the doctor. There he learned his kidneys had failed and he needed emergency hemodialysis.

Marcus spent nine days in the hospital on dialysis before transitioning to in-center hemodialysis (HD) treatment. It had all happened so fast, but he took the discovery of his kidney disease in stride knowing this was not the end for him, and rather a new beginning.

“When I first arrived at the center, the manager, Janet, welcomed me with open arms,” Marcus remembers. “The care I got there was incredible.”

Heading Home with Hope

Marcus soon learned that home dialysis was a viable option for him and was quickly connected with a home therapy center. He received the education and support he’d need to comfortably make the transition to administering treatments on his own. Marcus was excited by the new approach to his dialysis and grateful for the care team he knew he could depend on.

“It was like having another family,” Marcus says. “I hope everyone can have the same experience that I did. I had to learn a new way to live, and they made it so easy.”

Marcus’s care team members at the center weren’t his only support—he also had his family at home. Thanks to help from his wife, two teenage sons, and two daughters attending a nearby college, he was able to return to working full time.

“Everybody played a big role, especially my boys,” Marcus recalls. “If I needed anything, my boys were there—they stepped up without me needing to tell them. As for my wife, I never have to ask if she’s going to be there for me, because she always is.”

A Sign of Things to Come

With his health under control, Marcus’s wife surprised him with a pair of tickets to see his favorite football team play—the Chicago Bears. On game day, they noticed a stand in the stadium with materials for spectators to make their own signs. In that moment, Marcus knew exactly the message he wanted to convey—“I need a kidney.”

Although holding up the sign didn’t get the attention of the TV cameras, it did catch the eye of a stranger sitting next to him who eventually asked to take his photo. Her goal was to make Marcus’s sign—which included his request, blood type, and contact information—go viral.

“When someone says they’re going to make you go viral, you accept it and don’t expect it to actually happen,” Marcus said. “But in the time that it took to get from my seat in the stadium to the car, my phone rang so much it went dead. It was heart-filling to see that much kindness for a perfect stranger like me.”

After gaining major traction on social media, the story was picked up by local news stations that joined in the effort to find Marcus a kidney donor. But despite the outpouring of nationwide support, over a year passed with Marcus still waiting for a qualified donor.

Marcus and his wife decided to go to another Bears game to lift their spirits. While he was preparing to go to that game, he got a call from his transplant coordinator telling him that they’d finally found a match.

Help from a Neighbor

When Marcus heard the news, he was overcome with emotion. After waiting for almost two years to find a donor, he was ready to start the preparation and testing necessary for transplant. His primary focus during that time was to stay healthy and avoid COVID-19, which he did.

After a successful surgery, Marcus told his nurse he’d love to meet the anonymous person who changed his life. He soon learned that person was a woman who lived 15 minutes away from him and saw his story on the news.

“She came into my hospital room, and it was beautiful,” Marcus remembers. “That was one of the best feelings next to my children being born. At that moment I met the person who is my lifesaver, my angel.”

Marcus was able to take back control of his life and kidney disease largely thanks to his own determination, but he couldn’t have done it without the love and help from his family, care team, and a handful of compassionate strangers. Just like his approach to fatherhood, he wants to make sure he’s doing all he can to help other people living with kidney disease achieve their dreams.

“I got everything I need in life with my family,” Marcus says. “The only thing that will fulfill me now is to help those who are starting this journey realize it is not the end, it is just the beginning. You are already living life—put your best foot forward and let everyone know we’re going to get through this together.”
kidney transplant recipient Marcus Edwards, and his family

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