PITTSBURGH — Shaina Ott is just 34 years old. It’s been six years since she was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that has turned her life into a battle to survive.
“I still have so much life ahead of me and so many things I want to do, and I’m not ready to leave that yet,” Shaina told Channel 11.
In 2016, Shaina was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare disease that attacks the kidney’s filtering units and causes serious scarring. She’s tried multiple treatments from steroids to chemotherapy drugs, but nothing has worked to stop the progression.
Now, the only thing keeping her alive is daily dialysis.
“Right now, the only reason I’m able to be up and functioning is because of dialysis,” Shaina said.
Shaina must undergo six hours of kidney dialysis every night. It’s the only thing clearing her body of toxins and keeping her alive.
“Without dialysis, I’d be dead,” she said.
But dialysis is grueling and restricts her ability to live life freely, so she hopes a kidney transplant will change that. She’s on the active transplant waitlist, but that could take 3 to 5 years; and kidneys from deceased donors don’t last as long as living donor kidneys.
Purple Billboard Campaign
So, Shaina and her family came up with the purple billboard campaign to try and find a living donor.
“The main goal is I hope I get a kidney, but even if it’s not for me,” she said, “if it helps other people, even better.”
The billboards were the brainstorm idea of her mom. They picked the purple because it’s Shaina’s favorite color.
There are 19 billboards in total posted all over the Pittsburgh area. You’ll see them when you’re driving along the Parkway and in neighborhoods from Forest Hills to Greentree to West View, McKees Rocks, Beechwood and more.
Shaina hopes it gets people thinking about organ donation.
“If other people just become more awar(e) of organ donation. The fact that there are people out there suffering who need kidney’s, who need livers, who need heart transplants,” she said. “Being an organ donor on your driver’s license could help save so many people.”
So much to live for
Shaina is grateful to the support of her family and friends. They’ve held fundraisers, launched a website kidney4shaina.com, and now this billboard campaign to try and find her a living donor and help raise awareness.
Fliers they’ve posted around town say “the big ask and the big give” because it’s a big deal to be a donor, but they hope people realize how precious that “give” truly is.
“In the end, you save someone’s life,” Shaina said.
She hopes one of those lives will be hers.
“The most I could ever say to someone would be thank you. Just to have some semblance of normalcy again would mean the world to me.”
For more information about kidney disease, you can visit the National Kidney Foundation website.
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