MILLVILLE — If not for kidney dialysis, Shirley Chichura would have died already.
In July 2017, Chichura, of Millville, was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. She started spending five hours a day, five days a week doing home hemodialysis treatment, which purifies her blood because her kidneys do not work normally.
The 62-year-old would like to retire and travel, but the longer she stays on hemodialysis, the more her quality of life and health will decrease over time, even though the treatments keep her alive.
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Adella Gigliotti sat at her kitchen table with a cup of tea in hand and …
That’s why Chichura and other South Jersey residents in need of kidneys have taken the unusual step of making appeals to strangers through social media or roadside billboards, to increase the chances someone will be willing to be a living kidney donor.
Adella Gigliotti, 65, of Mays Landing, has her face and phone number along with the message, “I Need A Kidney Will You Help?” on a billboard facing the westbound lane of the Black Horse Pike in the West Atlantic City section of Egg Harbor Township.
Gigliotti was told in October that both her kidneys were failing, and she would need a transplant. She saw on Facebook there was another Mays Landing resident, a younger man with little children, also looking for a kidney.
Gigliotti was put on the transplant list, but the organ shortage in this country is such that a person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes, and 20 people die each day waiting for a transplant, federal data show.
A person only needs one kidney to live a normal life.
If Chichura received a kidney, she would be able to resume doing everyday things such as eating dinner with her family nightly.
“I have been evaluated and accepted on transplant lists at Saint Barnabas Hospital in Livingston (Essex County) and Jefferson out of Philadelphia,” Chichura said.
As Chichura was being evaluated to see what kind of candidate she would be for a kidney transplant, social workers at both hospitals told her to advertise where she could and to use social media to let people know she needs a kidney.
In June, Bonnie Tesone, of Apollo, Pennsylvania, spent time with her brother, Ken Chichura, 60, and her sister-in-law and watched them work together to make sure the treatments went smoothly.
Tesone knows the average wait is five to seven years for a kidney from a deceased person. She does not want her sister-in-law to continue doing what she has been doing for that period of time.
“I decided after watching her that we needed to reach out to the public in hopes of finding a living kidney donor for Shirley,” Tesone said.
Tesone wrote a letter explaining Chichura’s situation and posted it on her Facebook page. She asked everyone to share the post in the hopes someone out there would help secure a kidney for her sister-in-law.
The call to help Chichura went out through social media at the end of June. A couple of people expressed interest in donating a kidney, but Chichura doesn’t know whether they went through the process of finding out whether they were a match for her.
The family also is doing other things to let people know Chichura needs a kidney. They are in the process of ordering T-shirts for friends and relatives for when they attend events and places where large numbers of people are gathered such as sports games, amusement parks and crafts shows.
They have talked about bumper stickers and rubber wrist bands like the kind former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong used to wear. They also are investigating billboards and space on restaurant placemats.
“Just recently on the news, last Sunday I think it was, there was a guy in New York that did a billboard in Times Square, and the day after he put it up, he had eight volunteers,” Chichura said.