BEDFORD HEIGHTS - Thousands across Northeast Ohio are waiting on the gift of life this 2018 National Donor Day, including a Bedford Heights mom who spent decades waiting on the perfect match for a life changing condition.
"I have to do this five days a week," explained Monica Starks, walking to her home dialysis machine.
Starks, 46, is in end-stage kidney failure, searching for what she calls a second miracle. She was diagnosed at 27 with Nephrotic syndrome, a rare disorder that further complicates her chances of finding an organ donor. Fighting a silent killer for years, it seemed Starks finally got the news she hoped for only to have her heart broken shortly after.
"I felt like giving up," said Starks pausing, trying not to cry on her living room couch. "Why am I fighting? Why am I dealing with this for so long?
Starks received a kidney transplant in May of 2017. After a few month of health she says her body began to reject the organ.
"The day I actually had to have the transplant taken out probably was one of the worst days in my life," said Starks. "That's what I felt afterwards. I was just so empty, felt like I had just lost my child."
This year marks the 17th year that Starks has patiently waited for a chance at a healthy life. In the meantime, she is trying to raise awareness about kidney health through her charity, The Monica A. Starks Foundation. Starks' condition is one of many that can be changed with the gift of life.
"On this day, National Donor Day, I would like people to think about how they could help save someone's life."
According to a spokesperson at the Northeast Ohio non-profit Lifebanc, every four days a local person dies because the organ they need is not available. One donor can save as many as eight lives, one tissue donor can save or heal 50 lives. Lifebanc says in 2017, 155 local donors saved the lives of 418 individuals. An additional 774 people gave the gift of life through donation.