By Amelia Pak-Harvey
AYER - Richard Finlay, 51, always knew he would eventually need a kidney.
At a young age, he and his two brothers found out that they all had polycystic kidney disease, which they inherited from their father. Finlay's health was fine until he started dialysis in September, when he also began looking for a donor.
Now, Finlay's family is still searching for someone to donate a kidney to the husband and father of three.
Finlay undergoes more than 10 hours of dialysis every week, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to receive treatment before work. The process helps clean out his failing kidneys, but it is not a permanent solution.
"There's people that actually die while they're on it, waiting. It's something you have to do, but the faster you can get off of it the better," he said. "There's nothing anybody can control, you just have to wait for a donor."
Any interested person age 18 to 60 is welcome to call Paula Bigwood at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center at 508-334-1269.
Finlay said the operation does not require major surgery or significant recovery time.
"It's not really a major risk to the person donating, it's just a matter of if they want to do it or not," he said.
Finlay's grandmother gave his father a kidney when she was 80 years old, and she still lived to be more than 100.
"They usually say the donors live longer on average than non-donors," he said. "It's not a health issue. You don't have to worry about shortening your life because they only take healthy people."
The dialysis process is exhausting for Finlay, who works full-time.
He is on the list for a deceased donor kidney, but it might travel far to reach him and thus spend a lot of time out of function, he said. People on organ waiting lists can also wait years before receiving treatment.
One of Finlay's brothers already received a transplant, while the other is slowly approaching the need for one.
"My grandfather died from it," he said. "They didn't know at the time, but now they figured he had it and that's what he died from."
Finlay's wife, Karen, put up banners at the Ayer rotary to spread the word. She once stood at the traffic circle with her children, Conor, Shealyn and John, to attract attention.
"I tell my kids, 'You never know, one of these cars going by might have your dad's kidney in it,'' she said.
Page Hilltop Elementary - where Conor and Shealyn attend - also got the message on the district website with the help of Principal Fred Deppe. The three kids also help with social media.
"My children also take part in it because it means so much to them," she said. "They go through Instagram and they like to get the word out themselves because they're so concerned over it."
The support from the community has been wonderful, she said. She encourages people to at least look into the possibility of donating.
"Try not to be too afraid, because you can really make a difference for the person that you're donating to," she said. "You can give them a life, basically."
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