Montco woman advertises kidney donor search on digital billboards

Aretha Swift with daughter Jaimee, a senior at Temple University.

Ten media companies have donated space on 24 digital billboards to advertise a Montgomery County woman’s search for a kidney donor, The Philadelphia Business Journal reports. The signs, which went live Friday, will for two months stretch from the Philadelphia suburbs and the Jersey shore to Manhattan’s Times Square.

Each billboard bears the face of Abington mother of three Aretha Swift alongside the slogan, “You have two, I only need one to live.” Swift served Montgomery County as the 16-year Revitalization Coordinator of Norristown until 2010, when the Type II diabetic was forced to retire after receiving a diagnosis of acute renal failure. Her kidneys simply shut down.

“I was so fatigued I could barely walk or get out of bed, getting weaker
and weaker with each passing day,” Swift recalled on her website akidneyforaretha.com, whose domain space was also donated by a local advertising company.

“One
morning I felt so sick I couldn’t go on. I ended up in the emergency
room which led to a seven-day hospitalization and my diagnoses of acute
renal kidney failure. The toxins in my body were literally killing me.”

Swift was prescribed three-and-a-half hour dialysis treatments three times a week and faces a wait time of several years before a donor kidney might become available. “This has been an emotionally devastating experience for me and my children,” she wrote. “To me, having a machine act as your kidney is quite mind boggling and something I don’t think I will ever get use[d] to.”

Rather than idly wait, Swift set out to find a living donor, whose kidneys are longer-lasting. Doctors reportedly told her a live donation constituted her best chance for long-term survival.

Despite support from family, friends and fellow parishioners at Bethel Deliverance International Church, who all have pitched in to throw fundraisers and awareness campaigns, the task has been challenging.

“I have spent two years trying to find a living donor amongst my family and friends that matches my blood type and who would be able to donate their kidney, and I have been unsuccessful,” Swift said on her site. “Time is ticking for me and I am running out of options.”

Founding partner of Catalyst Outdoor Advertising Thaddeus Bartkowski told The Business Journal that he learned of Swift’s plight after a phone call from his mother, who urged him to do something after hearing the woman’s story on KYW Newsradio. After several meetings, he offered to donate billboard space and asked other outdoor media companies to do the same.

Those who agreed, aside from Bartkowski’s Catalyst, are Adams Outdoor, Besko Media, CBS Outdoor, Interstate Outdoor Advertising, Jersey Outdoor Media, Keystone Outdoor Advertising, Land Displays, OOS Investment and Tri Outdoor. Philadelphia-based Gillespie Group Marketing and Advertising conceived of the campaign and donated website space.

Bartkowski told the paper that he hopes other companies will join the campaign as it gains steam. The initiative has already proven promising – mere hours after the billboards launched Friday, a woman who saw one sent Swift a message to see if she might be a match.

According to Swift’s site, a good fit would be a healthy, willing donor between the ages of 18 and 60 with blood type B or O, though everyone will be considered on an individual basis.

Those willing to see if they are a match can do so by filling out the contact form on Swift’s website, calling 1-866-787-7809 or emailing donate@akidneyforaretha.com with their blood type and pertinent health issues.


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