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Family Uses Billboards to Find Kidney Donor

ABC News(SNELLVILLE, Ga.) -- Mandie Hale has spent her entire life in and out of hospitals after a bout with E. coli at age two sent her into kidney failure.

Now 22, Hale, from Snellville, Ga., is nearing the end of her chances with dialysis because of the toll the treatments have taken on her body.  Spurred on by the urgency of time and the unexpected generosity of complete strangers, Hale and her family are making a bigger-than-life attempt to finally find a kidney donor match.

Hale’s face and name are now on a series of billboards throughout the Atlanta area with the plea “Find A Kidney Match for Mandie.  Save Her Life!” and the phone number of her personal donor coordinator.

The E. coli and subsequent infections coupled with the long-term dialysis and frequent hospitalizations and surgeries have weakened Hale’s vascular system to the point where her veins are very brittle and she’s unable to have blood drawn.

“The last time I went into the hospital, about a month ago, we had a really big scare because I didn’t have any way to do dialysis and they were worried my last graft wasn’t going to work,” Hale told ABC News. “When that happened it freaked us all out, and my mom is on a mission to do whatever it takes.”

Hale’s mom is Joanna Cotes; she donated a kidney to her daughter when Hale was 14.  Hale’s body rejected the kidney, however, and it was removed after just five years.

Not long after, Hale had a series of seizures and a stroke soon after that forced doctors to remove her original kidneys and put her on a treatment of dialysis four times a week, with each treatment lasting approximately three hours.

With options running out for her daughter, Cotes reached out to the owner of a billboard on the property where she works to place a local advertisement.  She offered to pay for the billboard but the company, Fairway Outdoor Advertising, had another idea.

The South Carolina-based company instead offered Cotes a deal to put her daughter’s plea on 12 of their LED digital billboards in the greater Atlanta area, at no charge.

“With my mom, I’m not surprised.  That woman does everything for me.  If she could give me her other kidney, she would,” Hale said.  “With the billboard company, it’s unexplainable honestly.  That’s money they’re pretty much giving up.  I don’t have words.”

For Fairway, after hearing Hale’s story, the opportunity to help was a no-brainer.

“We said we are in it.  We are absolutely all in it,” a spokeswoman said.  “We just felt that we could help her out in a great sense if we were to reach out to the Atlanta community at large instead of just a display in an area that didn’t have as much of an impact.”

“We just absolutely could not and would not ever think of charging for something like this because it’s so important to help,” she added, noting the company plans to leave the billboards up indefinitely, as long as they have space and Hale is still searching for a donor.

Hale, whose long history with the disease makes finding a match more difficult, says the donor team has been so overwhelmed with calls they’ve had to bring in extra staff to help.

While no match has been found yet, Hale has every reason to continue searching. She is engaged to be married to her boyfriend of seven years, Mike Mcwillson, but is waiting to tie the knot.

“I want to be healthy and not worrying about dialysis,” she said.

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