FAIRHAVEN (WBSM) — A Fairhaven woman is seeking the public's help finding a kidney donor to decrease a multi-year wait and prevent a lifetime of dialysis.

By the age of 10, Nellie Zygiel, 20, was diagnosed with vasculitis, a rare and chronic disease. It is a condition that damages the blood vessels with inflammation and or swelling.

After being hospitalized in January of 2023, a biopsy showed a decline in Zygiel's kidney function, meaning she would need a replacement. Zygiel was officially placed on the National Donor List in January of 2024.

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Although a donor list may seem hopeful, the downside is that it comes with a five-to-seven-year wait. That left Zygiel facing waves of anxiety and fear that something would happen to her while she was waiting.

Most people end up going on dialysis during that time, and as a 20-year-old college student at UMass Amherst, Zygiel is desperately trying to avoid needing to undergo dialysis.

This decision ultimately led Zygiel to seek a kidney from a living donor, which would be a better match for her and last longer.

"My journey in searching for a kidney donor has been challenging," Zygiel said. "When I first found out I would be needing a transplant, due to not having a qualifying GFR (glomerular filtration rate, the overall rating of kidney function), I was unable to search for a donor. It was difficult being in that waiting period due to the uncertainty of it all."

"Since February when my story and website first went public through the UMass Daily Collegian, I have received an abundance of support from friends, family, and strangers," she said. "It's been amazing to see the goodness in people who reach out and offer their kidney and/or support."

Zygiel's journey has been one that she is overcoming daily. While she waits five to seven years on the donor list, Zygiel remains hopeful that dialysis will not be a process she will have to experience.

"I am beyond thankful and appreciative of everyone's efforts as well in sharing my story," she said. "It is crucial to try to find a living donor due to the long waitlist for deceased donation and because dialysis isn't a pleasant process."

"While it's an anxious time waiting to find a match, I am hopeful things will work out," she said.

Zygiel is studying education and psychology. She has been working hard to get ahead of her course load and maintain her 2026 graduation.

Anyone interested in becoming a kidney donor can fill out an inquiry form on her website. This will connect you to Zygiel for an evaluation. Her insurance will also cover the cost of your evaluation.

If your blood type doesn't match, there is also an option also to be entered into a kidney swap.

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