BLOUNT COUNTY - "Let's get out ahead of this," is the thought propelling the Click couple. Both of their car windows are covered with a time sensitive plea: "Husband needs kidney. Please call 865-742-6364."
“We started with family and friends and then posted on Facebook. About a year ago, we put it on our windshield on our car. Just trying to get it out there," said Billy Click.
Five years ago, this father of seven and grandfather of seven, was told both his kidneys were failing.
"When they first told me I left, got in my truck and just sat there for an hour pondering what had just happened. Your whole life pauses, and you were looking forward to finishing your career and retirement. Now, you’re like, 'how do I make it to retirement?'” said Click.
“Knowing he's having to go through that and we all are as a family. Just worrying about what he's got to face. It's hard every month,” said Karen Click, Billy's wife.
Instead of waiting on a list for a kidney donor - along with nearly 300 other people in East Tennessee - the Clicks decided to look for a donor on their own.
“The doctors at UT keep telling me if I can get a live donor the outcome is a whole lot better than going on dialysis and waiting for a donor," said Click.
So far, about 10 people have inquired or offered to donate to Click because of the car paint proposition.
“We had one tested already. Unfortunately, he came in a 75% match. But, that gives you hope because people are responding," said Click.
Donors have to be at least a 95% match to be a suitable donor. Donors also have to be in "great" physical and psycho-social health.
“There are 100,000 (people nationwide) waiting on just kidneys, and last year we did about 19,000 transplants. So really, we’re only doing less than 20% of people waiting for a life-saving organ," said Brent Hannah, Director of Transplant Services at UT Medical Center.
Hannah said there are 278 people waiting for a kidney transplant in East Tennessee.
“It’s a challenge they're always waiting on that call. When we place patients on the list we tell them we really don’t know how long it’s going to be. We have patients who are transplanted the following week and we have patients on the list for more than 10 years," said Hannah.
Hannah said the only way to meet the growing demand for donors is to grow the population of donors.
UT Medical Center is the only place in East Tennessee patients can receive a kidney transplant.
“Last year we did 63 and out of that 13 were living donor transplants. We would really like to encourage folks to give us a call and see if they’re a candidate or not," said Hannah.
Click hopes more people do apply to become donors. Even if none of them are a match to him.
"If people would realize they could help someone, not even me just someone, you can be a donor and help someone. Check that donor box," he said.
To contact the Click Family, call (865) 742-6364.
Click's blood type is O Positive. He is compatible with O Positive or O Negative blood types.
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