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Online Request For Kidney His Last, Best Hope: John Bellini didn't really think his online request for a kidney would work. He was wrong ? he didn't know about Tracey Silverio.
[January 31, 2010]

Online Request For Kidney His Last, Best Hope: John Bellini didn't really think his online request for a kidney would work. He was wrong ? he didn't know about Tracey Silverio.

SOUTHINGTON, Jan 31, 2010 (The Hartford Courant - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- John Bellini was desperate. For more than five years he had been waiting for a new kidney to replace the failing one he had. He spent evenings too tired to do much more than sink into the couch, and slept hooked up to a dialysis machine.

The wait seemed endless. He wondered how long he could live on dialysis, whether he would get his chance at a transplant before he got too sick to qualify.

He didn't know anyone he could ask for a kidney -- the people he did know were all too sick or the wrong blood type. Besides, he's not the sort to ask for something like that.

But he remembered an article he read, long before he even needed a transplant, about a local woman who needed a new kidney. Her friends made fliers and a man she'd never met found out and donated one.

Maybe with the Internet, he thought, he could reach even more people. He typed up an ad and posted it on craigslist, a site he used to buy and sell cars.

It was a Hail Mary pass.

"I didn't really think anybody would come through," he said. "I really didn't." Then again, getting a kidney the usual way didn't seem that promising either.

Nationally, about 83,000 people are on the waiting list for a new kidney. Each year, about 16,500 people will be lucky enough to get one.

Most kidneys -- about 10,500 -- come from dead people, whose bodies free up kidneys for two people. Live donors account for a little more than half as many.

Some people wait seven to 10 years for a new kidney, if they get one at all. At Hartford Hospital, where Bellini hoped to have his transplant, the wait time is shorter, about 2 1/2 years, said Dr. David Hull, director of the hospital's transplant program.

But Bellini, 52, has a rare blood type, making it harder to find a match for him.

"It seemed like an endless wait," he said.

Responses to the craigslist ad trickled in. Some people wanted money for the organ, which would be illegal. Some were the wrong blood type. One woman was eager to help but was disqualified because she had diabetes.

Then came an e-mail from across town -- a woman with type B blood and a reply that seemed more legitimate than the others. She included her phone number.

It took Bellini a few days to work up the courage. Finally, he called.

"You answered an ad?" he asked when the woman picked up.

"Yeah," she said.

Why would you give a kidney to somebody you don't know? he asked.

To see more of The Hartford Courant, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, The Hartford Courant, Conn.

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