AUGUSTA — Having found her own kidney donor after posting colorful signs on her lawn, Krystal Reardon is looking to help more Mainers in need of a transplant.

Krystal Reardon is shown Sept. 20, 2018, next to a sign she put up seeking a kidney donation. Now she’s using the same effort to advocate for kidney donations for two other Mainers. Kennebec Journal file photo by Joe Phelan

The Kennebec Journal reported Reardon’s attempt to find a living donor using the signs in September 2018. Now the 44-year-old mother of two adult daughters has put the signs back up to raise awareness for another Augusta woman and a Lewiston man.

During treatment for a heart attack Reardon had in 2017, doctors used dye to help identify her blood vessels. The dye, she said, had potential to cause kidney damage, and it revealed and exacerbated kidney problems from a birth defect that had gone unnoticed for years. Staring down a years-long waiting list for a deceased donor, Reardon used a series of signs on her home at 100 S. Belfast Ave. to drum up awareness. After “a ton of calls” citing the signs and the Kennebec Journal report, she received a kidney on Feb. 5 from an anonymous donor.

“I would definitely say thank you (to my donor),” she said. “It’s so much greater than thank you; I feel so much better.”

Reardon said she no longer needs dialysis treatment, liberating her from the eight-hour sessions six days a week. She has not yet returned to work as a nurse at MaineGeneral HomeCare but plans to as soon as she can.

“I have freedom, which is great,” Reardon said. “I can go out and do whatever I want.”

The creation of a Facebook page documenting her journey led to other Mainers in need of kidney transplants reaching out for her support. So Reardon has signs back out on her lawn — this time in an effort to help others.

Rachel Lajoie, 59, of Augusta, and Kenneth Edwards, 61, of Lewiston, are the two people for whom she is advocating on the new signs.

“They were looking at me for support because they haven’t been through getting the kidney yet,” Reardon said. “I’m looking to help Maine people.”

Signs advocating a kidney donation for Kenneth Edwards line South Belfast Avenue (Route 105) on Tuesday in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Edwards, a former magician, said he began dialysis about two and a half years ago. He said a high dosage of medicine to treat diabetes-exacerbated kidney problems, causing total failure. During dialysis treatments, Edwards found solace in Facebook groups, including Reardon’s, of fellow patients telling their stories.

“When you’re on dialysis, you become a family with other patients,” he said. “Everybody is going through the same crap.”

Edwards, who said he had to lose 70 pounds to pass initial testing, is going on the transplant list in April. He said he could get the procedure done sooner with a compatible living donor.

“I’m one of the most positive people,” he said. “I know I’m going to get it. I just don’t know when the good Lord is going to give it to me.”

Edwards said he was forced to give up his magic shows, which took him to Las Vegas and Disney World, after dialysis. He said he would like to get back on stage after he finds a donor.

Lajoie’s daughter, Renee Callahan, said she knew Reardon from her work as an occupational therapist. Callahan, who said her mother might be overwhelmed by speaking to the Kennebec Journal, said her mother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a teenager and radiation used in treatment might have damaged her kidney. Further, doctors found out about 15 years ago she had only one kidney.

“She has been living with one kidney for 15 years and the function has slowly declined since then,” Callahan said.

Lajoie, an information technology analyst for Iberdrola, the Spanish company that owns Central Maine Power, has not been put on the deceased donor list formally because of a heart condition, but she still is looking for a living donor. If doctors find Lajoie’s heart is able to withstand surgery, Callahan said, she might be able to have a transplant.

Callahan said she has been “overwhelmed” by community support since she put up signs on Sunday at her Riverside Drive home to ask for a kidney for her mother. As Lajoie’s only child and a mother of three children, Callahan was hopeful Lajoie could secure a donor quickly.

“We need her to be healthy so she can have fun with us,” she said.

Experts told the Kennebec Journal last year the average wait time for a kidney in Maine is about four to five years. Averages in more populated areas, such as New York, could range from five to seven years. Some patients become too sick or die while waiting.

The national Department of Health and Human Services’s website says 94,831 people are awaiting kidney transplants nationally. According to the national health department’s 2017 annual report, that number has been falling from its peak around 100,000 in 2014. The department said 4,414 patients died while waiting for their kidney and 4,505 became too sick for a transplant.

 

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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