North Aurora man's T-shirt spells out need for kidney donation

  • Clyde Alho, of Batavia, a Vietnam veteran diagnosed with kidney disease in 2017, is seeking a kidney donor.

    Clyde Alho, of Batavia, a Vietnam veteran diagnosed with kidney disease in 2017, is seeking a kidney donor. Courtesy of Sammi King

 
 
Updated 11/14/2019 2:14 PM

Printed on Clyde Alho's T-shirt is a simple plea, "I need a kidney." Below that is his phone number. Every day, he hopes someone will call.

Alho, of North Aurora, was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2017. He went to the hospital with swelling in his lower extremities and left with the knowledge his kidneys were failing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Clyde Alho spent 30 years as a software engineer at Bell Labs and Lucent. He has always faced challenges with determination. When he learned his kidney disease diagnosis, he immediately sought out possible donors. His wife, Connie, was not a candidate because of her health issues. The couple did not have children, but Clyde did have extended family. Unfortunately, those options did not work out for him, either. He did what many do -- he started letting everyone he knew that he needed a kidney. He had the T-shirt made for sharing his story with strangers.

"There is some success with things like decals on car windows, posting on Facebook, just getting the word out," he added.

The struggle in finding a donor has had its ups and downs.

"I was having some tile work done in our bathroom, and I started talking with the tiler about my problem. He told me that he was an organ donor and might be willing to be a living donor," Alho said. "As he was leaving, he said, 'Let's talk about it tomorrow.' I felt like I was in a dream. I couldn't believe that a total stranger was willing to do that for me. He didn't come back the next morning, but all his tools were still in my bathroom. When I called his company, I was told that he hadn't come in for work. Later, I learned that he had passed away from a brain aneurysm during the night. He was only 55."

Clyde Alho realized he had to be proactive, so he signed on to the transplant list. He learned that Illinois has the longest wait time. So he signed on with nearby states.

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Kidney donation requires the donor to be in good physical and mental health with normal kidney function. Some medical conditions, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, or acute infections, can prevent you from being a living donor. If a donor needs a kidney, that donor moves to the top of the transplant list.

"For someone like Clyde who does not have a matching donor, it doesn't necessarily mean waiting on a deceased donor," said Sara Jane Castro, communications manager of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois. "Any willing donor can step forward, regardless of whether or not they are a match. The donor and recipient can participate in what is called a paired kidney donation where the donor's kidney goes to someone who is a match, and Clyde would receive the kidney from someone else's willing donor who is a match for him. Alternatively, willing donors can be paired with recipients at the National Kidney Registry. This service pairs altruistic donors from across the country with those in need of a lifesaving transplant by way of an anonymized computer algorithm."

According to Castro, there were a total of 36,529 transplants in the United States last year, with 732 transplants in Illinois.

Clyde Alho waits and hopes. He is not alone. He is one of 102,821 people waiting for a kidney across the United States.

For information about becoming a living donor, visit www.nkfi.org/kidney-transplant-information.

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