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At 13, Addison Wunsch already knows what it’s like to watch a loved one struggle against illness, so the boy is looking for a hero.
Addison’s mom is suffering from end-stage kidney disease and waiting for an organ transplant. The family rejoiced when they recently found a potential kidney donor who appeared to be a perfect match, but a final test uncovered a medical problem that meant the donation could not go forward.
Hopes dashed, Addison turned to social media this month to help find a new donor for his mom, and kind strangers are already responding.
“It’s hard for her to go through all of this and go through dialysis every night, not doing fun things we used to do,” Addison, who lives in Grand Forks, North Dakota, told TODAY. “I want my mom to get a new kidney so she’ll feel better.”
“He’s just an amazing kid,” his mom Mandi Sticka said. “I do want to be there for him. Obviously, like any mother I want to be there to watch him grow up.”
Sticka, 34, has been looking for a new kidney for two years — ever since membranous nephropathy caused one of her kidney’s to fail, she said. Sticka has been on the national organ transplant waiting list for over a year, but the average wait time for her blood type — O positive — is about 7 to 9 years, she noted.
In the meantime, Sticka undergoes dialysis for 8-and-a-half hours every night at home and takes a number of medications. The dialysis is "just kind of a Band-Aid" rather than a permanent cure and can't last forever, she noted.
The kidney disease affects all aspects of her life: It has weakened Sticka’s body, so favorite activities like fishing or bowling make her tired. A catheter in her stomach means she can’t go swimming. Any travel requires extensive planning to keep her dialysis on schedule.
When that promising donor fell through earlier this year, Addison created a bright green poster explaining the family’s plight and titled it “Be my hero, Save my mom’s life!” After he posted it on his stepfather’s Facebook page last week, the appeal has already prompted 31 people to offer to be tested to see if they’re a match.
“It made me really happy because all these kind people trying to give a kidney to my mom,” Addison said.
“It kind of leaves me speechless,” Sticka added. “If nothing else, it helps spread awareness. There are so many people out there who need a kidney.” Currently, more than 101,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant in the U.S., according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Sticka asks potential donors to contact her transplant center in Omaha, Nebraska, and receive an initial health screening by phone. If they’re deemed a potential match, many more tests follow — a process that takes about two months, Sticka said.
The family asks that potential donors email them at email@example.com.