California woman seeks kidney donation through sign above freeway

National News

Debra Starr-Knecht’s parents are still alive at 88 and 92.

Her grandmother lived to be 96.

Longevity should be on her side. But her kidneys aren’t.

Debra is 66, and she is in Stage 5 kidney failure.

Any hope the southern California mom has for living another 20 years or so depends on her getting a kidney transplant.

The current wait for a deceased donor kidney could be four to six years.

And time isn’t on Debra’s side at this point.

“Please help me find a kidney donor — I want to be a really old lady,” the message on her website plainly states at

Her site tells of a woman who created a loving home, raised a family, watched her kids grow up.

Now she wants to watch her grandkids grow up, too.

In addition to social media efforts, Debra and her husband, Wayne, are trying an unconventional effort to get attention and, hopefully, help.

At the center of a walking path along a long bridge that straddles a California freeway, Debra and Wayne slowly wave red flags to draw attention to a large banner between them.

“Kidney donor urgently needed,’ the sign reads, followed by Debra’s website.

It’s a longshot, but you never know when the right person might come along at the right moment and see the sign.

Or the website.

“I can’t imagine anything better than living 20 more years. And watching my children and my family mature and grow and thrive,” Debra said recently in an interview.

Debra worked 30 years in the healthcare industry and has a familiarity with things like kidney failure, dialysis and the thousands of people nationwide waiting for kidney transplants.

“Should I receive a transplant,  I would like to use my healthcare knowledge and renewed energy to support other patients living with and overcoming kidney disease,” she writes on her website. “Unlike cancer,  there is little community support for individuals in facing the silent but certain outcomes of poorer kidney function.”

And so she and her husband go most weekdays to the spot on the bridge over the California freeway, wave their red flags and hope someone sees the sign and can help.

“A kidney donation would be a priceless legacy of a longer life.,” Debra notes. “I would take care of it as the sacred gift it would be – a precious opportunity to become an old lady.”

For more information on Debra Starr-Knecht and her search for a donor kidney, go to

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