When Steven Johnson of Mattapoisett went to the emergency room in 2018, he left the hospital with an unsuspected diagnosis. Three years later, this 30-year-old SouthCoast native is dealing with the end stages of renal failure, also known as kidney failure, and desperately needs to find a matching donor before time runs out.

“I went to the ER for something completely different,” Johnson said about his trip to the hospital in 2018. “They saw my blood pressure was ridiculously high and they discovered I was at the end stage of renal failure.”

Johnson had been living with one kidney since he was about four years old. One of his kidneys wasn’t growing properly, forcing doctors to remove it, and now his remaining kidney was failing him, too.

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“I was a mix of scared, angry, and worried about what was next,” Johnson said. “The doctors said I needed a transplant, but I didn’t know what that entailed. They just told me I needed it ASAP.”

Until he finds a donor, Johnson is forced to receive dialysis, a tedious process that cleans toxins out of the blood and removes extra fluid. At first, he was able to do the process from home through peritoneal dialysis, but after suffering from flash pulmonary edema – which Johnson described as “drowning in my own fluid" – he was forced to switch to hemodialysis, which requires a visit to the blood center three times a week for four hours for an aggressive “cleansing” of the blood.

Once his body adapted to the treatment, Johnson felt better than ever, but unfortunately dialysis is merely a band-aid for the wound that cannot heal.

Johnson needs a donor with an A-positive blood type to make a full recovery. Until then, he sits on the waiting list. However, there is a way for people to speed up the process.

“There’s a program called the cross-match program, where somebody who isn’t a match can donate on my behalf, and that will move me up to the top of the list,” Johnson explained.

The search for a new kidney weighs heavily on Johnson, not just because of his declining health, but because of the family that fights alongside him every day.

“My girlfriend has been on a rampage to find me a kidney, she started a Facebook group for me. My mom, of course, worries all the time, and my grandmother, who raised me, has been a wreck,” he said. “My son doesn’t really know what is going on, he’s four-year-old son and has autism.”

Finding a match gives Johnson a chance to grow old with his girlfriend, to take care of the women in his life, and to watch his son experience life’s milestones.

“I could watch my son grow up,” he said. “When he gets married, graduates high school, those are the most important and I don’t want to miss it.”

Let’s spread Steven Johnson’s story in hopes of finding the perfect match.

Everyone deserves a shot at a long life well-lived.

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