Bumper stickers and car decals broadcast all kinds of information, from a favorite band to a vacation destination to an off-color joke to whether the driver’s kid is an honor roll student.
The decal on the back of Elizabeth Abrantes’s car is a plea for life.
“Kidney needed, A+, Share Your Spare & Be a Hero,” it reads, followed by a phone number. The "A+" refers to her blood type, and "your spare" refers to the fact that a healthy person can survive with just one of her two kidneys.
Abrantes, 40, of Newark, has been on New Jersey’s waiting list for a new kidney for four years. She landed there in part due to hereditary medical conditions that went untreated, including hypertension.
“I had no idea of the consequences until I was in the emergency room and was told I was close to kidney failure,” she said.
Abrantes experienced other challenges in the last few years, including losing her mother, then caring for her father, a Parkinson’s sufferer who also died. Taking care of her dad cost her a job, and with it her health insurance, jeopardizing her place on the waiting list for a kidney.
“They won’t do it if you don’t have insurance because you can’t pay for it,” she said.
Abrantes also had to undergo a heart procedure in order to remain healthy enough to undergo a kidney transplant. And in another blow, Abrantes lost her brother.
Abrantes so far had had little luck in tracking down a kidney through the sticker affixed to her car. She has also tried to increase her chances by signing up for the donor list in Iowa, a legal but expensive move, where the wait list for a kidney is much shorter than the average seven years in New Jersey.
Abrantes has also looked into a practice called “swapping” organs, also known as a paired exchange, where a person volunteers to donate to someone close -- usually a family member -- but can’t because the organ is not a match. That person then donates to another recipient who is a match. In exchange, that second recipient returns the favor, locating a donor who is compatible with the first recipient.
Abrantes added that despite the many setbacks she’s experienced, she has a powerful incentive to keep trying: her late brother’s daughter, who regards Abrantes as a parent.
‘His daughter, she’s 22, she’s basically my kid. She’s still with me,” Abrantes said.
“My fight is to make sure I’m around as long as I can be for her.”
For more information about organ donation, click here.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.