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Grandmother With Stage 5 Kidney Failure Waves Red Flag for Donor Over 405 Freeway

When a Pasadena grandmother discovered none of her family members were a match for the kidney transplant she urgently needs, she set out to search for a donor.

That search led to the busiest place in LA, the 405 during rush hour.

When Debra Starr-Knecht retired a few years ago, she never imagined she and her husband would spend five nights a week standing on a freeway overpass waving a red flag to get drivers to notice a banner, pleading for a kidney donor.

The 66 year old Pasadena resident has Stage 5 kidney failure.

“The only treatments for kidney disease are dialysis and transplant,” she said.

She’s on a transplant waiting list at UCLA for a deceased organ donor, but that wait can be as long as 10 years. That’s why she’s hoping for a live donor.

“A live donor kidney has an expectancy of 15 to 20 years and I can’t think of anything more wonderful than having 20 more years to watch my children and grandchildren grow.”

That desire to not only live, but to live fully, motivates her and her husband to spend their days spreading the word.

“We really have not had the opportunity to be retired as it were, we’ve been investing our energy in a search for that special donor”

She set up a website,, to inform potential donors about her and about the procedure.

“Each of us are born with a second kidney which we can safely share if we are indeed healthy.”

She realizes it’s a lot to ask of someone to donate an organ to a complete stranger, but she remains hopeful.

It’s a message she’ll continue to spread, whether through her website, personalized sweatshirts, or by standing on the Palms Boulevard overpass of the 405.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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