Durham man at bottom of donor list; advertises need for new kidney

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Every year thousands of Americans wait for a much-needed organ donation, and for some, the call will never come.

Bob Wheeler, a lifelong resident of Durham, hopes his unique advertising will land him on the operating table with a new kidney.

"He's just a lot of fun to be around," said Mel Wheeler, Bob's wife of nearly 50 years. "I love his sense of humor!"

Humor and fun are accurate descriptions of Bob, who is nearing 70 years old.

But Bob's once full of energy life is now, for the most part, spent connected to a dialysis machine.

At a minimum, Wheeler spends eleven hours every day tethered in his home, even though it's mostly during his sleep.

Bob Wheeler needs a kidney, but his age puts him near the bottom of the donor list at Duke.

The bottom of the list isn't stopping Wheeler on his search for a better life. "We heard about a gentleman that went to Disney World that put a t-shirt on that said he needs a kidney," Wheeler confessed. That man at Disney got his kidney. "I said if that's good enough for him, it's good enough for me!"

So Bob bought car decals. The bright white letters read out "I NEED A KIDNEY 9194772452"

Bob said that time is ticking, and his kidney condition has drastically slowed him down. "He's not the same person even now because he has no energy to do anything," said Bob's wife Mel.

But there's hope when the couple drives around their grey SUV. They have hope that their cell phone will ring and the answer to their problem will be on the other line: a kidney donor.

Wheeler said his doctor told him if someone donates a kidney, Wheeler would be a good recipient because of his health.
Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.