WOMEN

One Kansas Man's Heartbreaking Effort To Find His Wife A Kidney

12/14/2013 04:56 pm ET | Updated Dec 15, 2013

On a windblown stretch of interstate in central Kansas, four handwritten words make a startling request: "I Need A Kidney."

The statement was painted by James Nelson, 70, on behalf of his 73-year-old wife, Sharon, who has suffered from kidney failure since 2009, reports the Kansas City Star. The couple has been looking for a donor since 2011, says Nelson, but none of the offers -- coming from close friends and family -- had been the right fit.

So they hatched a plan.

“I called a nurse at the Mayo Clinic, where I had been approved for a kidney transplant, and she said a guy in Milwaukee got a kidney by putting up a billboard,” Sharon told the Star. “My husband knew someone who had a family member who had a billboard. Sure enough, one was available.”

Armed with black paint and a roller, James climbed a shaky ladder and scrawled the message out by hand.

“It was a particularly cold morning that day. I grabbed a chair and sat there making sure he wouldn't fall from that ladder,” Sharon recalled to ABC News.

Since they rented the billboard last month, the Nelsons say a number of people have contacted them, but none has worked out. Mismatched blood types and other medical issues have conspired to keep willing donors from being able to give a kidney.

"One of the people, who is a perfect blood match, had had tuberculosis, so they were unable to donate and the other phone calls have been the wrong blood type," Sharon told KAKE. Sharon's blood is type O; a donor would have to be type O as well.

But they haven't given up hope. “We've been overwhelmed by the generosity of people," Sharon said.

For more information on organ donation, and to become a donor yourself, visit organdonor.gov. As of June 2013, more than 96,000 people in the United States were awaiting a kidney transplant.

This article has been updated to include Sharon's blood type, type O.

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