GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — More than 100,000 Americans are in need of a kidney transplant, according to the National Kidney Foundation. One of those 100,000 is Linda Griggs, an artist living in Grand Rapids. Kidney failure runs in her family, and she's known a transplant was in her future since her teen years.
Decades later, that time has come.
Griggs is a breast cancer survivor — she's been in remission for more than 30 years. She used art to heal from that diagnosis, teaching workshops alongside fellow artist Karen Godfrey. Last year, the pair started an informational campaign in search of a living donor through the National Kidney Registry (NKR).
"I’ve been putting it on telephone polls where I walk in the morning and also in coffee shops and bookstores I go to," Griggs said about the first round of flyers she and Godfrey created. "I’ve sent it to friends asking them to do the same."
The flyers originally were mostly informational with paragraphs describing Linda's condition and situation. They did the trick, and 4 strangers signed up for the NKR with Linda's link. Unfortunately none of them, nor the 4 family members that also signed up, were matches.
"It's frustrating but it’s also hopeful," Griggs said. "It gives me hope that there's somebody out there able to qualify and wanting to do it."
About a year into spreading flyers, Godfrey had an idea — take out most of the information in exchange for something more eye catching. The artist created a custom poster with a kidney on it, asking 'Can you spare your spare' with a link to Linda's NKR profile.
Three days later, that sign was stolen from Linda's yard.
"My first thought was 'who would do that,'" Griggs said. "The second thought was 'wow, maybe it is somebody who wants to donate and they don’t have their camera phone with them so they took it.'"
She hasn't heard from the sign thief, but she's remaining hopeful. In the meantime, the pair recruited another artist friend to create a much larger, more noticeable, and far less theft-prone sign.
"I think it just added to our campaign in a different way," Godfrey said. Mary Ellen McNaughton, the artist behind the new sign, was not available when we interviewed Godfrey and Griggs, but the women say she wanted to keep the eye-catching nature of the original sign in her version.
To sign up for the National Kidney Registry as a potential donor, click this link.
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