Fort Lauderdale woman takes novel approach in search for kidney donor

By Kathleen Corso - Special Projects Producer, Kristi Krueger - Anchor/Health Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - For two decades, Joyce Griffin struggled with kidney problems brought on by diabetes and high blood pressure.  

"I've been on medication for both, but my doctors told me my kidneys were getting worse," Griffin said.

In 2015, when it became clear she'd need a transplant, Griffin put pen to paper in a plea for help.

"I wrote a letter saying, 'My name is Joyce Griffin and I'm curious as to how far this will go,'" she said.

Griffin put her message in a bottle and tossed it out to sea with high hopes.

"That someone who knew someone might know a donor or maybe that they were a donor," she said.

In the fall of 2015, her message was found by a friend of a transplant nurse at the Cleveland Clinic Florida, and the next thing she knew, Griffin was getting a call to make an appointment.

"When I did go in for my appointment, everybody on the floor knew of me," she said.

Transplant nurse Krystel Nava, who put Griffin into the transplant registry, was stunned that the message made it into her hands.

"It feels pretty amazing to know the power of anyone you may know and how we're all connected somehow," Nava said.

People in need of a kidney transplant typically spend four to five years on a wait list, during which time they often wind up on dialysis.

"What we advise people if their kidney function is getting worse and they're going on dialysis, they can get some time on the list and that can get them more opportunity to get transplant," transplant surgeon Dr. Samer Ebaid said.

Since her transplant, Griffin is enjoying the freedom to live a normal life, without the confines of weekly dialysis sessions.

"I'm able to travel and enjoy seeing the world with friends and family," she said. "It's a blessing."

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