CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- A Cape Coral woman is fighting for her life and trying to find a kidney donor while helping others. Melissa Tuff has been on dialysis for most of her life and only has a 6% chance to find a donor match.
She’s been in and out of hospitals since she was a teenager.
“I had my first dialysis treatment on my 17th birthday,” said Tuff.
She was diagnosed with kidney failure after having a bad urinary tract infection.
“It was difficult,” said Tuff. “My plans pretty much just stopped and focusing on staying alive was the only thing that I could do.”
Melissa had to quit school and was on dialysis for 9 years until she got a transplant from a deceased donor, but her body rejected it a few years later.
“There were times that I talked to my doctor about signing a DNR,” said Tuff.
She stayed optimistic and moved to Cape Coral from Michigan. She left her family and friends behind for a better chance for a donor match.
“I still have things I want to accomplish in my life, I have a beautiful niece that I want to see grow up,” said Tuff.
Melissa’s blood type is O positive, but she’s been on the waitlist for four years since her high antibodies from her first transplant significantly decreased her chances of finding another match.
“94% of the population won’t match me on so the key is to find that 6%”
She said in order to do that, more people need to be tested.
“It is a small chance and I’m not ready to give up yet so tell me there’s a 0% chance that I’m still going to keep trying,” said Tuff.
As she waits for a miracle, she’s been involved in groups and organizations in Cape Coral and advocating to get people transplants and educating donors on the process. You can find the information on Melissa’s Facebook page.
“I have many groups of friends that I’ve seen pass away because of the shortage of Organ donors,” Tuff said.
Melissa is sharing her story with Fox 4 to spread donor awareness.
“My hope is just that if even one person comes forward to get tested for anybody from my story, then I did something,” Tuff said.
If you are interested in being a donor, visit the National Kidney Registry website.