Rocio Sandoval and her husband Juan were enjoying a day out at Disney World last week when something unusual caught their attention.
An elderly man was pushing one of his 5 kids through the park in a wheelchair, but what caught Rocio's eye was the shirt he was wearing. In big, black letters it said "In Need Of Kidney O Positive," and listed a phone number. While the couple assumed the child in the wheelchair needed the kidney, the truth was even more upsetting.
The man pushing the chair, 60-year-old Robert Leibowitz, was advertising for himself. The single dad and father of 5 is living with a damaged kidney, and needs a transplant to replace his failing organs. The custom t-shirt was his daughter's creative idea to help him find a matching donor.
Leibowitz is reluctant to publicly search for a donor, but couldn't resist trying his daughter's idea for their family trip to Disney World. "It is very hard to get a kidney and there are not a lot of donors out there," Leibowitz explained, "or with O positive (blood type). I am universal, but I have to get an O back."
Sandoval offered to take a picture of the man's shirt to share online, and Leibowitz encouraged her to "share this with the world." He has less than 300 Facebook friends, and was hoping that Sandoval's post could reach at least 100 people.
But his special shirt's message ended up reaching farther than Leibowitz ever imagined.
Time is running out for Leibowitz, who has been living with kidney problems since he was just 12 years old.
Leibowitz was treated for a kidney infection as a child, and thought he was cured, but at age 40 a test revealed his organs never fully recovered from the childhood illness. “I looked healthy. I felt healthy," he said, "I didn’t want to believe the doctors. [But] they told me it is a hidden disease."
Today they're failing, and Leibowitz's best hope is a live donation from a living O positive donor. Until then, he's forced to take a dialysis treatment for 4 hours every day. But with help from Sandoval, Leibowitz's search for an organ has gone viral. Now, the single dad has more calls from volunteer donors than he can keep up with.
So far Sandoval's post had been shared more than 90,000 times, and Leibowitz has received text messages and phone calls from "all over the country."
“The response has been absolutely amazing. I get very emotional about it," he said. "Over a million people have seen it already."
Those are 1 million potential donors, which is good news for Leibowits and the other 101,000 Americans waiting for kidney transplants. There are only about 17,000 kidney donations each year, so if you want to add your name to the list visit the National Kidney Foundation's website.
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