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Friend finds creative way to find kidney donor

"When I knew she went on the donor list we decided to get the message out to share your spare (kidney)."

ST. LOUIS — People in need of an organ transplant will go to incredible lengths to find a donor. But sometimes, it's the smallest effort that means the most.

A pair of women who've know each other for decades prove love can help solve most any problem.

Janet Starr isn't a nurse or doctor. But as a florist at Mercy South Hospital, her beautiful arrangements touch the lives of patients.

“I get to make something and put a lot of love into it. And when they get that, they feel that love. And that's a healing thing,” said Starr.

She's been putting love into her work at the hospital for the last five years. And now she could use a little healing, too.

“I've been waiting on a kidney transplant list for two years and four months,” she said.

Despite the symptoms of severe kidney failure, Starr comes to work every day with the goal of bringing joy to others.

“To make them feel better or make their day special.”

Unlike some people who need a transplant, Starr knew this day was coming. She found out 35 years ago, while being treated for a kidney stone, she was born with Polycystic Kidney Disease.

“Right now, there are over 600,000 people in the United States who have this condition. At some point you need dialysis or transplant. There is no cure for it.”

She hopes her story will convince other people to be tested for PKD.

“Had I not gotten tested when I had that kidney stone I may not have found out until it was too late. Lucky for me, they found it and I was able to prepare myself to be as healthy as possible when it comes time for dialysis or a transplant.”

While she works and waits for a donor, Starr's getting help from outside the system.

Elise Allen’s been friends with Starr's daughter since she was 3-years-old.

“Janet's like a second mom,” said Allen. “When I knew she went on the donor list we decided to get the message out to share your spare (kidney).”

Allen and Starr’s daughter came up with the idea to turn cars into rolling billboards for Starr’s cause.

“We decided to make stickers. We designed them ourselves. Bright green. Got my kidney sticker on there,” Allen said, pointing to her car’s back window.

Those stickers have been on about 10 friends’ and family member's cars for a few months now, and they're working.

“I would say at least a dozen people have called,” said Starr.

Starr said those calls may never have come in without an act of love from someone close to her.

“I can't thank you enough,” Starr said to Allen. “I'm so glad you're in our family's life and that you've helped me in this way.

Starr will find out Friday how much longer she has until she’ll need to start dialysis.

Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis University Hospital have organ transplant programs. Click the links to sign up to become a donor.

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