A Maine woman is getting a second chance at life, thanks to a kind stranger who spotted an unusual request on her windshield.
Christine Royles, who was diagnosed with lupus in December 2013 and later suffered kidney failure, was put on a donor list for a new kidney in July 2014, but a few months later she decided to expand her search and plead for help by painting a message on her car.
She told TODAY.com she changed the message every week or so, but it was one she wrote about having a 2-year-old son that caught Josh Dall-Leighton’s eye and led him and his wife Ashley to reach out.
“I started bawling my eyes out right when his wife texted me,” said Royles, who lives with her son and fiancé.
Royles, 24, was parked outside Applebee’s where she works as a waitress when Josh and Ashley spotted her car in December 2014.
“He doesn’t think any child should be without a mother—that’s the first thing he said when he saw it,” Ashley told TODAY.com of her husband.
Josh wasn't the only one to reach out — Royles says a few others contacted her, and once she was profiled by a local news station, she got about 50 inquires. She referred everyone to the transplant center to see if a match could be made, and Josh, a 30-year-old corrections officer, then underwent several rounds of testing to determine whether he could move forward with the kidney donation.
A few months later, the Dall-Leightons, who have three young children, got back in touch with Royles to tell her the good news: Josh was a match.
The surgery is tentatively scheduled for May.
“It’s really amazing because he has three kids, he’s the sole provider,” Royles said. “He’s got a young family and he’s just going to take time off to do something for a random person—I think it’s pretty crazy.”
She’s grateful, and eager for a fresh start.
“I take 10 to 11 medications, I have doctor’s visits every week, sometimes a few times a week,” said Royles, who also has another autoimmune disease, ANCA vasculitis. “My dialysis, I do every day. Every night I hook up to a machine for 10 hours. And when you have kidney problems, you have to be on a really strict diet—that’s the worst part.”
She was inspired to write the messages on her windshield by a story she’d seen on the news about a South Carolina man who walked around with a sign begging for a kidney for his wife.
“Everyone thought it was weird, they thought it was creepy,” she said. “But I had this really weird feeling that it would work.”
As for the Dall-Leightons, who live about a half hour away from Royles in Windham, they understand the risks of surgery but are thrilled to help.
“He’s so happy that he can make her life better and that she’ll be healthy again. He never once regretted that phone call,” Ashley said, adding that he’s also shocked by all the attention his decision has sparked. “He has me answer all the questions, because the publicity aspect of this is not what he wants.”
Josh will have to take up to six weeks unpaid leave off from work, she added, and a friend has launched a GoFundMe page to help support the family during that time.
People can live normal lives after donating a kidney because the remaining kidney will grow to compensate for the one that was removed, according to the National Kidney Foundation.