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Honk if You Love Saving Lives

Featured Photo from Honk if You Love Saving Lives

Some unconventional advertising helped this Lake Mary man find a life-saving kidney donor.

Four years ago, Lake Mary resident Roddy Naranjo learned he was facing kidney failure. A visit to a specialist confirmed that he had nephrotic syndrome, a serious kidney disease. At the time, Roddy wasn’t experiencing any symptoms.

“I played soccer for a local club here,” he recalls. “I was fairly active, so I never really saw the signs. They call it a hidden disease – it creeps up on you, and you don’t realize it until it’s full-blown.”

Only after the diagnosis did Roddy’s symptoms emerge. He began to experience headaches and cramping. He started dialysis and was qualified to be placed on the list for a kidney transplant. But based on Roddy’s O-positive blood type, he was told that the normal waiting period for a kidney could be five to eight years. Roddy wasn’t sure he had that much time, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Roddy created car magnets, T-shirts, and business cards advertising his need for an O-positive kidney. Every piece of marketing material featured a phone number for potential donors to call.

“I saw a clip of a person going through Disney World with a similar T-shirt, and I thought, if he can do it, there is no reason why I can’t do it,” Roddy recalls. “Immediately, I started receiving responses from people.”

Some offered well wishes and prayers, and others offered to donate but were intimidated by the testing process.

“It was up and down,” remembers Roddy.

This past May, Orlando Police Officer Keith Gibson noticed one of Roddy’s bumper stickers on a friend’s car and agreed to be tested.

“He went through all the testing, and he was a match until the final test, when he was unfortunately ruled out,” says Roddy.

Keith was devastated that he couldn’t donate, but he told Roddy he would do anything he could to help him find a donor. Keith spread the word about Roddy’s condition around the station, and one of his fellow officers mentioned that his wife, Kristin Scaglione, had just signed up to be a living donor. And, she was O-positive.

“I talked to her for an hour,” says Roddy. “I knew she would be the one. She was in great shape, a marathon runner. I got lucky to find someone who actually wanted to be a living donor.”

After testing, Kristin was determined to be a perfect match.

By this time, Roddy was enduring kidney dialysis three times a week, four hours per day.

“I was at five percent kidney function, in the last stage of kidney disease,” Roddy says.

His doctor wanted to schedule the transplant as soon as possible, and Roddy was all for it. The surgery was set for December 12 at Tampa General Hospital’s transplant center, where the staff performs more than 400 organ transplants a year.

Roddy and Kristin met in person for the first time over dinner the week prior to the surgery.

“There were some misty eyes,” says Roddy. His appreciation is difficult to put into words. “We’ve created a bond forever. There’s nothing I can do to repay her. She’s my angel.

“Right before Christmas... it was the greatest gift I could ever get,” Roddy continues. “It takes a special person to become a living donor. You’re taking a risk of giving up one of your organs in order to save somebody else’s life.”

The surgery was a success, and Kristin was discharged from the hospital only two days later. After Roddy was released to the transplant center for monitoring, he was given the green light to return home on January 2. By mid-January, he was receiving weekly follow-ups and on track for a full recovery.

“I’m getting there, slowly but surely,” says Roddy. “Everything is going well. I’m very blessed.”

Approximately 618,000 people are afflicted with renal failure in America, 428,000 are currently on dialysis, and more than 100,000 people are waiting for transplants. WKMG Channel 6 News followed Roddy’s story, documenting his amazing journey in four segments, and WOFL FOX 35 invited Roddy and Kristin for a live interview following the surgery.

“I was thankful for everybody’s help,” says Roddy. “A huge thanks also to News 6. Their work restarts the dialogue. We lose about 47,000 people each year to this disease.”

Roddy hopes that his story will show others that they can be an active part of the solution.

“One of the things I would like to do is maybe help others get their kidneys faster,” Roddy says. “It takes a lot of education. A lot of folks don’t know about the disease and that you can be a living donor and still live a good, productive life.”

In addition, Roddy hopes to someday get back to playing soccer.

“I’m in an over-50 league – it isn’t that competitive,” he laughs. “I was told there isn’t any reason I shouldn’t be able to play again.”

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