Family using billboard to solicit kidney for Mich. grandmother - KMSP-TV

Family using billboard to solicit kidney for Mich. grandmother

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A billboard along southbound I-75 in Madison Heights features Virginia Millen and her grandchildren. A billboard along southbound I-75 in Madison Heights features Virginia Millen and her grandchildren.
MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WJBK) -

73-year-old Virginia Millen is in desperate need of a kidney transplant, and her family is going to new heights to find a match.

Virginia and her grandchildren are featured on a billboard along southbound I-75 just south of Twelve Mile in Madison Heights that boldly says "save our grandma" with a kidney donation.

Diabetes has led the Hartland Township woman to kidney failure, and if she doesn't get a transplant soon, dialysis is unavoidable.

The idea really started with eight-year-old Presley.

"I saw a guy selling gold and silver doing the sign dancing, and I wanted dad to dress up as a kidney and I would hold the sign," he says.

Instead, Jerry Millen paid thousands of dollars for a week-long billboard.

"It wasn't cheap, but the life of my mother is priceless," he says.

2,500 people in Michigan are currently waiting for a kidney. It can take years to get one through the deceased donor registry. Living donation can be much quicker, but finding the right person can be difficult.

"A lot of people just don't know that you can live with one kidney and you can give up a kidney without any problems. I didn't know, so I thought it would help spread the word," Jerry says.

Is there a concern with soliciting strangers for an organ? The surgical director of the Living Kidney Transplant Center at Henry Ford Hospital says you just need to make sure that payment isn't expected for the organ, which is illegal, and make sure a donor is physically and psychologically prepared.

Jerry believes there are people who will want to do the right thing.

"I've already had a couple of people call," he says.

The hope is that Virginia will avoid dialysis, a difficult process in which a machine does the work of your kidneys.

"Someone may see the billboard or see your news story, not be a type O blood, but maybe study up on kidney donation and say, wow, I could give a kidney and save someone else's life. So it may save one life, it may save ten, it may save a hundred," Jerry says.

To reach the Millin family, call 1-855-94-GRAMS or send an email to saveourgrandma@gmail.com.

To learn more about being a living donor, visit www.henryford.com/body.cfm?id=49473.

You may wish to also check out the Alliance for Paired Donation's website at www.paireddonation.org.

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