SC Man Searches For Kidney To Save His Wife

10:32 PM, Dec 28, 2012   |    comments
  • Courtesy: CBS
  • Courtesy: CBS
    
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Anderson, SC -- Larry Swilling and his wife Jimmie Sue have been happily married 57 years. So happily, in fact, that Larry has now come to realize the downside of loving someone so much you can't live without them.

You can't live without them.

"She's my heart," he said.

Heart has never been an issue for these two.

What's always been lacking is a kidney. Jimmie Sue was born with only one, and now that one is shot. She needs a transplant -- but neither her husband, nor anyone tested in her family, is a suitable match.

Jimmie Sue is on a donor list, but the wait is about two or three years long and that's for a kidney from a deceased donor. Transplant patients who get their kidneys from living donors tend to live longer.

Which is why Larry decided to try a completely radical approach to securing a kidney: asking for it, from total strangers.

"I don't care what people think," Larry said. He tells his wife, "I'm going to get you a kidney."

Never mind that most people won't give panhandlers their pocket change, let alone their vital organs. A few months ago, Larry, at 77, has been walking all over his hometown of Anderson, S.C. -- and the surrounding towns -- basically begging for a kidney.

And on out in the street, wearing a signboard -- "Need kidney 4 wife" -- he's not shy in asking passersby: "I sure could use your kidney."

He didn't really think it would work. But, he said, "I'm trying. I had to do something."

It was really just a way to not feel helpless, which is why he was as surprised as anyone when the phone rang -- rang repeatedly.

"I'm willing to donate a kidney for your wife," one caller said on voicemail.

"We'd love to find out how to be tested," said another.

Hundreds of people who either saw his sign -- or heard about it -- volunteered. As one volunteer put it, "I've got two, and I only need one."

So far there has been no match, but at this point he's almost certainly recruited enough volunteers -- and raised enough awareness -- to save someone.

That's fine by Jimmie Sue.

"If I get a kidney, fine. If I don't, I hope someone else does," she said.

But it's not good enough for Larry.

And that's why Larry is still looking, still appealing to the kindness of strangers -- for the love of his life.

Donations to the Larry Swilling Fund can be sent to Larry Swilling Fund c/o Journey to Destiny, 210 S. McDuffie Street, Anderson, SC 29621. You may also contact the Swilling's at 864-314-0212.

If you are interested in learning more about being an organ donor for Mrs. Swilling or for the nearly 100,000 other people who are waiting for a new kidney, please contact the Medical University of South Carolina Transplant Center: 1-800-277-8687.

If you would like to see Steve Hartman's full report on the Swilling's visit CBS.com

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