Alabama woman using billboards to advertise need for kidney

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – People use billboards for many reasons, from advertising their businesses to promoting their causes. However, Verna Johnson is using them to try to get a new kidney.

Johnson, who lives in Montgomery, was diagnosed with kidney disease in October 2017. She’s been on dialysis the last several months and has just 6 percent kidney function. According to the Living Kidney Donors Network, the average wait time on the kidney transplant waiting list is between five and 10 years. Knowing that time was important, Johnson decided to take action on her own.

“People get impatient waiting in line to get their tag or something,” Johnson said. “Think about waiting in line for a life-saving organ. Yeah, the list is extremely long.”

Johnson’s sister, who died in 2015, also had kidney disease. She never received a new kidney, despite being on the waiting list for 11 years.

Johnson wanted to make sure she could receive a kidney in time, so several months ago, she and some of her supporters came up with the idea to use billboards to get a kidney. They put together two digital graphics, which run on five billboards in Birmingham and four in Montgomery. They feature a number for UAB Medical Center, 888-822-7892, that anyone can call if they are interested in donating.

Johnson’s days can sometimes be grueling, with more than eight hours each day being dedicated to dialysis does more than eight hours of dialysis, but she says just knowing the billboards are up helps her stay positive.

“Every day I hook up, I say, ‘Okay, this is the process, this is what I have to do,’ I tell myself.” she said. “And there are days, I’m like, ‘I’m not going to do this.’ But then, okay, this is the process, this is the process. I’ve got the word out, the message is spreading. Until I find my donor, this is what I’ve got to do.”

Because of her condition, Johnson was forced her to step away from her career as a professional therapist. However, she has plans to restart her career and possibly further her education once she gets a new kidney. She also plans to help others dealing with kidney disease.

“First I’m going to shout ‘Hallelujah,’” she said. “And then I think I’m going to, I know for sure I’m going to remain an advocate for others and to continue to speak on other people’s behalf.”

Johnson has a Facebook page with more information about her condition and how people can help. It also features a video with Johnson’s story.

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