NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — Nearly 100,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
New York has the seventh highest kidney wait-list in the nation, per capita, according to Kidney Fund.
In an effort to promote kidney donation in New York, lawmakers have introduced two bills.
One would fully reimburse the costs of kidney donation, and a second would go a step further by offering kidney donors free lifetime health insurance.
A 28-year-old mother, out of Niagara Falls, is pleading with the Western New York community for a kidney transplant.
It is learned that her kidney disease diagnosis came about, from a previous medical journey at the age of 23, just five years ago.
Elena DePaolo and her husband, Frank, understand the true meaning of family and togetherness.
"It was amazing to be able to be able to say here I am five years later, holding my baby. They told me I would never be able to be a mom," Elena DePaolo explained.
When an obstacle hits one member of the family, it is an understood task that everyone rises in support, but now, DePaolo is asking for the Western New York community to help her in her next obstacle.
"One kidney doesn't work at all. The other kidney works at about 15%," she said.
In 2016, DePaolo's cancer was found and in remission in about 7 months.
"I did in that time, 6 rounds of chemo, six rounds of radiation and then I had a stem cell transplant and that's what helped me go into the remission," she said. "My brother stepped up and he was my donor, even though he was only a half-match. "I have a whole different blood type and everything. I used to be O+ and now I'm A+ because it's my brother's blood type."
However, soon after, the 23-year-old at the time learned she would still be in a constant war with her immune system.
DePaolo said, "I found out my kidneys were failing. They weren't failing yet. It was just kidney disease at the time and it was stage three, so they were working at 40% percent, which isn't great but, it's definitely under average. I mean, it's better than where they're at now."
The mother said her kidneys continue fail and are at stage five, considered to be the "end-stage".
She almost had a donor on Monday, Nov. 15 but was notified that the match was "not good enough", so now she is left searching again.
DePaolo is hoping to get her story out as much as she can because the more people that are reached, her match will be found.
"I want the community to know that I have a family who loves me and that I love very much, and that I want to be here to experience all of my son's stuff. I want to be here for all of his graduations, his wedding day, his baseball games and whatever he enjoys, I want to be there for it. I don't want to be there as a shell of myself. I want to be there as me," she said.
The family tells me their 2-year-old son was adopted at birth. They hope to continue to adopt children but need to get over this obstacle first.
"It was the best decision I ever made. That little boy means the absolute world to me. He gives me the push that I need to get up everyday to do what I have to do. Watching him grow, and he learns new things and when he just looks at me and points at me and goes, "Mama" and smiles, it's the best feeling in the world," she said.
Anyone with blood types O+/- or A+/- is a match for Elena.
If you think you are a match and would like to get tested to donate your kidney to her can call ECMC at (716) 898-5001.