AKRON, Ohio - Tanya Cross has rescued animals and helped their owners for years. Now, she is the one who needs help.
Cross, 41, learned that she had a rare disorder called MPGN, when she was 27.
"I ended up with renal failure at 27 out of nowhere. I worked like everyone else, went to school, was living a normal life. I thought I had the flu and I went in and the doctor gave me an antibiotic. I went back in like two weeks later, I had the gout and my mom said something's not right; you have never been sick before," said Cross.
Her mother donated a kidney but now that kidney is failing and she is not a candidate for dialysis.
Adding to her challenges is the theft of more than $8,000 that she had been saving to use toward a life-saving transplant.
Lee Stolfo, a neighbor, pleaded guilty in Summit County Common Pleas Court on Monday to charges related to breaking into the Akron home where she was living and stealing the money.
"My cousin threw a fundraiser for me the minute we found out that I was going to need it because it's expensive. I have to pay for the donor as well as myself and the going back and forth to Baltimore for the testing for them and every doctor I see up here is pretty much a specialist so I always pay more up here and all the medications," said Cross.
"I have sold pretty much everything I have owned. Friends, some friends have come forward and they will pay for a couple of prescriptions here and there for me but it definitely set me back because now when a donor comes up, you know, I have to pay for them as well; so yeah, he definitely put me in a tight spot on top of everything else that I'm going through already," she added.
To try to help replace the lost money, friends have set up a Tanya Cross Donation Fund to which contributions can be made at any Chase Bank.
But, after saving animals for years, what Cross needs most right now is a kidney and she is running out of time.
"I'm just very sick, in and out of the hospital all the time, just praying and hoping someone steps up and says I'll save you," said Cross.
She is trying to educate everyone about kidney donation, asking anyone interested to contact Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where her surgery will take place, for information.
"I'm '0' positive blood type so if people test '0' positive there's a very good chance they can test straight to me. If someone is not '0' positive, there is a very good chance they can be put on a swap program where they are willing to give a kidney up on my behalf, if one comes up in this program, which maybe contains about 500 people versus like the list, the united list which a lot of people say, aren't you on the list? But you have to wait for people to pass for that list to be active," said Cross.
Cross says her kidney function is now at 20 percent. If she does not find a compatible donor soon she will have to go to hospice when her kidney function reaches 12-15 percent.
She says the one thing that helps her cope is the joy she gets from the pets she has helped rescue.
"It's just really nice to save, turn their lives around and help and save them and that's what I'm hoping for; I'm kind of hoping that somebody will step forward for me and save, donate and give me a chance to have more life," said Cross.