Karol Franks puts an ad on Craigslist each week, asking if anyone can donate a kidney to her daughter Jenna. None of their friends or family have been a match, so Karol is hoping to find someone through social media. Kathy Vara reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 30, 2013.
Karol Franks, like just about any mother, is looking for the perfect match for her daughter.
Only what 27-year-old Jenna needs isn’t a partner. She needs a kidney donor with blood Type O.
And Karol is looking for one online – on Craigslist, Facebook, YouTube and nearly any social media avenue on which her quest takes her.
“It’s my daughter, it’s my baby. … As much as we can support her, we will. We’ll do whatever we can. There’s a lot of hope,” Karol says in a 14-minute YouTube video about their quest.
“I truly believe there’s someone out there that is going to match her. It might take a while, but I think it will happen.”
The video shows old footage of 3-year-old Jenna playing with bubbles in a back yard. Then, at age 14, she was diagnosed with kidney disease because of a rare urological condition.
Jenna walks into frame and posts a flyer on a light pole on an urban street. “Are you my type?” it reads, complete with rip-off tabs for take-away contact information.
“You always know your mom loves you, but I’ve definitely seen it through her actions,” Jenna says in the video. “How devoted she is to my life, and my health and well-being – I’m very grateful to her for that.”
Karol, who lives in Pasadena, says she has advocated online for Jenna for years, since she learned she herself could not be a donor. No relatives or friends who have come forward have been a match for Jenna either.
Karol also is an advocate for the community of 90,000-plus people who need kidneys. She notes that many people do not have a mom who will advocate for them so forcefully, and says it’s very difficult for a anyone in need to ask for an organ for themselves.
Every week, Karol posts a request for Jenna on Craigslist, according to a story in the Pasadena Star-News, which reported on the Franks this week.
Putting their story online for the world to see has been difficult for the normally very private family, but it's worked in past.
An online posting about Jenna some six years ago brought in a “generous stranger” who turned out to be a match – and who donated a kidney to Jenna. Three months later, the donor ran the Boston Marathon, Karol says in the video.
“The goal is not to take someone’s kidney and make them disabled,” Karol said. “The idea is to have two healthy people come out of the surgery.”
But now, that kidney is being rejected by Jenna’s body, and she will need dialysis or a transplant in coming weeks.
Jenna had been on dialysis for three years beginning at age 18, when she found herself the youngest person in the dialysis center, where she spent three hours three times per week.
“It was very hard for me. I felt kind of lonely. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, and I felt like no one at school could understand what I was going through,” Jenna recalls.
As Jenna, an artist, waits to find out if she’ll start dialysis in the next few weeks, her mother says she worries for her.
“Right now, her life is on pause. She’s a little in limbo, I think,” Karol says in the video.
The Franks’ Facebook page states that Type O potential donors can call Ashley, the Living donor specialist at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla - (858) 554-4363 - tell her the patient is Jenna Franks.
NBC4's Kathy Vara contributed to this article.