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Quest for a new kidney gets a big boost from the Internet for Henderson woman

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HENDERSON, Colo. -- A Henderson couple with admittedly limited social media skills can't say enough about its ability to help them with a kidney transplant.

"I didn’t even know about Reddit,” said Michelle Stewart, who is on an organ donor waiting list through the University of Colorado Hospital.

"I'm a construction worker. I do masonry work for a living,"  Michelle’s husband, Bob, said.

He is used to building houses. But building a lifeline for his 50-year-old wife is a first.

"I was informed last February, the end of February, that my kidneys were beginning to shut down. So, began our journey," Michelle Stewart said.

Stewart's 37-year battle with kidney disease led the couple on a journey of getting on an organ donor wait list, handing out 1,000 fliers and raising awareness through various transplant events.

But now time is running out.

"So, it's like let's do a last resort. Let's stick a sign on the back of the truck and see what happens with that," Bob Stewart said said.

The couple couldn't have imagined what happened next. Bob Stewart was stopped at a red light in Commerce City and someone, unbeknown to him, took a picture of the truck and posted it on the website Reddit. From there, the post took on a life of its own.

The sign said: “TYPE O BLOOD, WIFE NEEDS KIDNEY, Michelle Stewart, 720-848-0855.”

And the calls came pouring in -- hundreds of them, said a spokeswoman at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. All of them who wanted to help, many from out of state.

"(The hospital employee) was like, 'You know this went viral?' Well, I don't know what viral means, but it's a good thing. The more people the better," Bob Stewart said. “I guess I should have got that sign on there a while ago.”

Besides Reddit, the picture also made its way to Facebook and other websites.

"It’s amazing people would have compassion for me to give a body part, especially when I have family members that don't feel comfortable with it or are unable to donate. So a stranger is my hope," Michelle Stewart said.

While another stranger is their hero.

“That guy, because of him, we are sitting here. He is the one who started this. I just stuck a sign on the back of the truck," Bob Stewart said.

"This has definitely given me that hope," Michelle Stewart said.

She is looking for a kidney from a living person instead of one who is deceased because studies show the kidney works sooner, better and lasts longer.

If Michelle Stewart doesn't find a match in time, she will have to start dialysis to keep waste from building up in her body.

UCH has set up an informational session Friday for people interested in learning more about organ donation.

The American Transplant Foundation also has plenty of information about organ donor services and events at its website.