PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There is a desperate request from a Northeast Philadelphia family as they are looking for a kidney donor for their 19-year-old son.
Nearly 6,000 people in our region are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.
The waiting list nationally is so long that some families are taking matters into their own hands by making a public plea.
There is a shadow Kevin Brighter wants to bring to the light.
“The biggest fear I have is not being able to live my life to the fullest and not being able to find a donor and feeling lost,” he said.
Brighter’s story begins even before birth when doctors noticed abnormalities of his kidneys on an ultrasound.
“Doctors said to us, ‘We really should terminate this pregnancy. It will never be compatible with human life,’ which is devastating to hear as a mom,” said mom Maura Brighter. “I guess the idea he wasn’t perfect, but to us, he’s perfect.”
At just 2 years old, Kevin Brighter received a kidney transplant from his dad.
“It was like I actually gave life to someone,” his father told Eyewitness News. “Playing baseball growing up, going to school, making friends – and knowing there’s a little piece of you in him.”
But in December, 17 years after that initial transplant, Brighter started noticing bloating and swollen ankles; something wasn’t right.
“When his kidney failed, it was just the worst thing I’ve ever felt,” said Maura Brighter. “It’s about the worst thing that could happen to any family, to have your child suffer and not be able to fix it.”
She had tried. In May, she had been scheduled to donate her kidney to Kevin, but through further testing a week before the procedure, doctors discovered his body would reject it due to his elevated antibodies.
So, now, the boy who became his parents’ gift of life needs that gift himself: a kidney donor with type B or O blood.
“All I can do is just look forward and just have hope really,” Kevin said.
He is not alone.
“Right now, nationally, there’s close to 117,000 patients awaiting a life-saving transplant,” said Larry Suplee, director of the Transplant Information Center at The Gift of Life Donor Program. Factors of matching donors with recipients include medical urgency and time on the organ transplant waiting list.
Two years ago, it also awarded Kevin a scholarship for college, where he’s pursuing his dream of creating medical devices that can save lives.
The LaSalle University community has been so supportive and accommodating, he says, that he is determined to return here for his third year.
He’s studying science and business and hopes to one day help people with chronic illness.
“That would give me a great sense of pride to help people with the same type of situation. I know what they’re going through so I have skin in the game for it,” he said.
In a way, he’s finding purpose in the pain and he’s believing a brighter future is just around the bend.
“I think my illness has shaped me. I don’t think I’d be the same person if none of this ever happened,” he said. “I know I will find a donor and I will live out the rest of my life.”
Kevin is listed at Thomas Jefferson Hospital and an assessment form for the kidney transplant program can be found here.