MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — Madison resident Johnny Johnson Jr. is still looking for a living kidney donor.
“It would be life-changing,” he said.
News 19 first spoke with Johnson back in January of this year. At the time, he was turning heads with his billboard ad at the corner of Balch Road and Gillespie Road in Madison. The billboard read “I need a Kidney. Can you help?” and it included his picture and email address.
Johnson reached back out to News 19 earlier this week to update us on his health and search for a donor.
He said shortly after our news story aired, he received numerous emails from people who wanted to donate their kidneys, or at the very least empathize with his situation.
Johnson said he almost found a match.
“I came close,” he said. “I had one donor that was really close to being able to give to me, but one test disqualified him from being able to do it.”
He said he ran down every lead.
“I followed up with everyone,” he said.
He explained that several people who were interested in helping didn’t meet the health requirements, or weren’t a match for other reasons.
“It’s a very difficult process to get cleared to be a donor, but they tried and I was really thankful for that” he added.
Nine months later, he remains hopeful that he will be able to find a kidney donor.
However, he hopes he finds one soon because time is of the essence for the husband and father of two young children.
“This has been a tough situation to go through day after day, week after week, year after year,” he said. “Not only for me but for my family and for my loved ones and friends.”
Johnson’s health started declining in 2020 when he battled both COVID-19 and the Flu. Shortly after that, his “kidney function decided it didn’t want to work anymore.”
Now, he’s living with end-stage renal failure or kidney failure.
He said having a kidney transplant is his best chance at returning to a normal life.
Until he can find a donor and receive the transplant, he will have to continue his challenging regimen of hemodialysis three days a week.
“The three times a week is pretty difficult,” he said. He explained that the process takes several hours and leaves him exhausted.
In addition to the dialysis treatment, he has to follow a very strict diet where he monitors what he eats. What he drinks, is also limited.
“You are capped at how much fluid you can intake per day” he said. “I’m capped at 32 ounces of fluid per day.”
For reference, that is just two regular-sized water bottles.
Receiving a new kidney would mean everything.
“It would be life-changing, I would be able to resume the things I was working on prior.”
“Actually getting back into the workforce, being more active, having more energy, feeling better, and just being able to take care of my body,” he said.
Johnson is on the kidney transplant list at UAB in Birmingham, Vanderbilt in Nashville, and was recently added to the list at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. He said he picked locations that would be easy for him to get to, from his home in Madison.
While he is getting closer to receiving a kidney off of the list from a deceased donor, Johnson said the lifespan is longer for someone who receives a kidney from a living donor.
However, “I’d be thankful for either one,” he said.
At the end of our conversation, Johnson mentioned that his birthday is on Friday.
I asked if he had any plans to celebrate, and he said he would be spending three-to-four hours in treatment. He said the best birthday gift would be finding new leads on a donor.
If you would like to learn more about the kidney donation process, or how to help Johnson, he said the best way is to send him an email.
His email address is email@example.com.
“I think the key to it is just getting the word out and letting people know that you need help,” Johnson said. “At first, I had a problem with doing that, you know, I kind of wanted to keep it to myself but I had to understand that I had to get the word out and let people know that I need help.”