Woman Who Posted 'Verna Needs a Kidney' Billboards Will Finally Get a Kidney

Alabama local news station WIAT reports that Verna Johnson, who conducted a five month campaign of billboard advertisements in Birmingham and Montgomery to find a kidney donor, has succeeded.

Johnson was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2017. Her organs continued to lose function, requiring her to be placed on dialysis for as long as eight hours a day. By July of 2019, she had just 6 percent kidney function, and the only possible remedy was an organ transplant.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, a new patient is added to the waiting list for a kidney transplant every 14 minutes. That list now stretches over 100,000 people long. Alabama has the longest wait time in the United States, with the Alabama Kidney Foundation reporting over 1,300 patients in need.

Doctors performing transplant surgery
Doctors performing transplant surgery gpointstudio / Getty Images

Johnson's sister Marcella was also on that list, and waited 11 years without getting a donated kidney. She passed away in 2015. When Verna Johnson was diagnosed two years later, doctors told her it could be five to ten years for her to get a match.

Verna Johnson knew that she wasn't going to find a kidney donor through ordinary means. So she contracted with a local digital advertising company to run bold, bright ads with a picture of herself captioned with "Verna Needs A Kidney" and the phone number for the UAB Medical Center.

She also had T-shirts and car magnets printed up to draw attention to her plight.

Jefferson County Health Department credit union teller Jaime Burchfield reached out to the medical center after seeing one of the billboards. She had the necessary matching blood type and had seen a story about Verna shared to her church's Facebook page.

"I saw the Facebook post once and then I thought, 'I don't really know.' Like, 'Why would they want my kidney?'" Burchfield told the Montgomery Advertiser. "Then I saw it again and then I was like, 'OK God, I hear you. You're telling me again you want me to do this'."

Johnson posted her meeting with Burchfield on Facebook, as the doctors introduced the two for the first time.

It is with great excitement and anticipation that we announce VERNA “GOT” A KIDNEY!In the big picture, Kidney Disease has become a national epidemic. In America, 37 million adults suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease. Over 94,000 people are on the Kidney Donor Waiting List. This list continues to grow in size year after year.Here at home, Alabama ranks 5th Worst in the nation in the number of cases of Kidney Disease. Recent studies reveal that Alabama has the longest transplant wait time of any state in the country. The average national wait time is 3-5 years. In Alabama, you could easily increase that wait time to 7 years or more.The Verna Needs A Kidney Facebook page launched in April of 2019. From the beginning, our belief was “if we carried the message, God would do the rest. Through His grace and the hard work of many loving people, Verna's campaign was able to reduce the wait time to just 5 months.I have heard it said that “sometimes miracles are just good people with kind hearts that God sends your way.” That was definitely the case here. Verna's successful campaign was the result of social media, news outlets, and businesses... partnering with the community.The VERNA NEEDS A KIDNEY Facebook page would like to express gratitude to all involved! Thank you for your empathy and support! Any grassroots organization or campaign is void without community support. The love the public poured onto the "Verna Needs A Kidney" Facebook page was amazing! We may not all be called to donate a kidney, but we are all called to care! Thank you for all the “prayers” and “shares”! By helping get the word out.... you are equally responsible for this miracle!A special “Thank You” goes out to Mashburn Outdoor Advertising. The company's billboards in Birmingham and Montgomery proclaimed VERNA NEEDS A KIDNEY to thousands and thousands of commuters each day. What began as a company trying to make a difference led to a deep friendship with Verna's campaign. The entire company followed Verna's progress and cheered her on as updates were shared!We would also like to thank all reporters and news outlets that covered Verna's story. Your compassion in reporting has not only helped Verna, but also furthered awareness of kidney disease and the need for Living Kidney Donors. Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do in the name of Organ Donation. You are helping to save lives!Finally, words can not express the feelings of gratitude that Verna Johnson has for her Donor. This courageous and selfless act is not only saving her life, but also adding quality to it! You are an example of what is good in the world! Thank you for stepping forward and setting an example for us all.The Living Kidney Donor (Ms. Jaime Burchfield) came forward as a result of a Facebook post placed on the Church Of The Highlands Community Page. Surgery is scheduled for the end of October at UAB Hospital, Birmingham, Alabama. * With respect to donor, recipient, and families... we request privacy the day of surgery.

Posted by Verna Needs A Kidney on Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Surgery is scheduled for the end of October. Johnson will be hospitalized for three weeks following the transplant, but the former therapist is already thinking of resuming her career once she's recovered.

"This has given me a sense of power, a sense of wanting to help others and encourage them," Johnson told WIAT. "I want to be a voice for others and continue working on their behalf."