Jay, the dad of the Lewis family, doesn't know his family is searching for a kidney for him, nor that they've hit Facebook in their quest to do so.
The Scranton, Pennsylvania-based family, led by Jay’s wife Melissa (who had been in contact with NBC10 earlier this month about a video her daughter shared) recently posted a new video hoping to reach potential kidney donors. This new video revealed that, now, all of Jay's children are in on the secret.
"I came up with the idea for the Father's Day video because Sawyer, my three-year-old, and Xander, my five-year-old, one day out of the blue said they were getting their daddy a kidney for Father's day," Melissa said.
Although their search is being kept a secret from Jay for now, Melissa was willing to risk it to get the word out there. While the family hopes to have news of a new kidney by Father's Day, June 17, Melissa said, "even if it's months from now, I will tell him 'Happy Father's Day.'"
Jason “Jay” Lewis, a 39-year-old father of six and a husband of 10 years to Melissa, 38, has stage five kidney failure due to polycystic kidney disease. Jay discovered he had polycystic kidney disease when he was 16. The disease is genetic and Melissa says unfortunately each kid has a 50-50 shot of getting it.
"I always pray that none of mine (kids) have it," she said.
Originally, Melissa began the Kidney For Jay Give the Gift of Life Today Facebook page in March 2017. Her daughter Savannah wanted to help spread the word about their search. Savannah created her own Facebook page called Savannah’s Secret Gift of Life Search, and she made a video that aimed to get "one million likes and shares" hoping to spread the word of the family's search for a "gift of life."
So far, 35 people have reached out to the Lewis family and four have submitted paperwork. However, this does not guarantee a match. The Lewis family hopes that someone is a match or will enter the paired kidney exchange if they are not. Not everyone that tests will pass the testing process.
Jay has type B blood and can accept an organ from people with O blood as well. Iif someone wants to be a donor but is not a direct match, they can enter the Paired Kidney Exchange. Jay is on transplant list at The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
"We are searching the world for an extra special amazing person to give my husband his life back and be able to have the energy to watch our six kids grow up,” Melissa said.
Michael Mittelman, Co-Founder and Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Patient Advocacy of The American Living Organ Donor Fund, a nonprofit that works "specifically to protect the living donor," fully supports living donation and has had three transplants.
"I’ve been a recipient advocate for many, many years, but I didn't understand what the donors go through," Mittelman says. The American Living Organ Donor Fund does not charge anything as, "we work with the living donor on this journey as they try to save someone’s life.”
“It’s hard trying to keep one of the biggest secrets of a lifetime from your best friend," Melissa said. "But, so far, the world and I aren’t doing such a bad job at it.”