Union sister hoping news coverage, social media will find husband donor kidney to save his life

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HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: OPEIU Local 13 member Jessica Armistead, her husband Ryan and their 4-year-old son Gregory are hoping recent news coverage and the power of social media will help find Ryan a compatible donor kidney. – Photo courtesy of Jessica Armistead

By SHERI GASSAWAY
Correspondent

On Aug. 17, union sister Jessica Armistead and her husband Ryan made the trip from their home in Troy, MO, to Barnes-Jewish St. Louis with the hopes of Ryan finally getting a new kidney.

It was the closest the couple has come in the two years since Ryan was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that affects the function of the kidneys. Unfortunately, the kidney was not a match – there was too high of a risk for rejection.

For months, Jessica, an Office & Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 13 member who works in the Health and Welfare Office at Machinists District 9, has been trying to spread the word about Ryan’s need for a donor kidney.

She started a Facebook page in March and has been driving around with a magnet on her vehicle asking for donors since July. Three days after the visit to the hospital, someone spotted the magnet and shared it on social media, prompting a local television station to do a news story.

‘SUCH A BLESSING’

“This is such a blessing,” Jessica said of the news coverage, “We’re hoping to get the word out to help us and others who need a transplant.”

Knowing the values of strength, family and community that unite all union members, Jessica also reached out to the Labor Tribune to help spread the couple’s hope of finding a kidney donor.

THE DIAGNOSIS

DIALYSIS: Ryan Armistead, shown here with his son Gregory, undergoes dialysis several times a week to remove waste, salt and extra water from his blood, a job normally performed by the kidneys. – Photo courtesy of Jessica Armistead

Ryan, an Old Monroe Police officer, was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy two years ago. Like many other autoimmune diseases, there is no cure and medications can only slow its progress and help manage symptoms.

Also known as Berger’s disease, IgA nephropathy is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) lodges in the kidneys, resulting in local inflammation that can hamper the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood.

More advanced stages of the disease, like Ryan’s, require dialysis and transplantation. Ryan, who is now able only to work part-time at the police station, undergoes hours of dialysis each week.

DONORS

Potential donors are asked to call Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s Transplant Office at 314-362-5365 (Option 4) or 800-633-9906 (Option 4). Ryan has Type O blood, and while having the same blood type helps, Jessica said doctors are more interested in the tissue type, which can be obtained by a blood test.

To find out more about being a donor and to learn about the family’s journey, visit the couple’s Facebook page.

TO HELP THE FAMILY

Jessica has also set up a Go Fund Me page at gofundme.com/ryan-armistead-kidney-help to help the family with medical bills and finances.

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