DEXTER, N.Y. (WWNY) - Charles Mitchell and his fiancée, Sumer Stevens, live in Dexter. In their driveway are two cars with unique stickers on the back windows.
“It says kidney needed, blood type O or A and then my phone number 315-489-4802 and I can direct you to the transplant center in Syracuse,” said Stevens.
Mitchell is on a list at that transplant center and another one in New Jersey as he waits for a kidney - a wait that’s lasted 17 years.
“It’s kind of my normal,” he said.
Mitchell’s normal is dialysis 3 times a week for 5 hours at a time, which he says is like a full-time job.
“Tired. It’s difficult to move and to think and just the want-to kind of just goes away,” he said.
Hard to blame him, considering he has lost not just two kidneys, but 3.
In 2001, Mitchell’s first transplant failed. Adversity hasn’t kept him from living his life. He continues to play his guitar, do things around the house, and ride his motorcycle - even without kidneys.
“I had high blood pressure for years and didn’t know that and that killed my kidneys and that’s a very common thing to happen to your kidneys,” he said.
Years of dialysis left its mark with aneurysms as a result if countless needles, but not every mark was physical. The treatment brought Mitchell and Stevens together.
“I run a dialysis unit in Lowville, so he goes to the competitor here in Watertown,” said Stevens.
“Which is how we met - we are a dialysis love story,” said Mitchell.
Love doesn’t make them a donor match, but it pushes Stevens to help her fiancée find who is. And their effort doesn’t stop with their own trials. They are advocates for organ donation.
“Be an organ donor on your license. That does make a difference,” said Stevens.
“It’s not just checking a box like, yeah, I’ll do that or maybe I wont, whatever, I’ll get around to it. It’s absolutely important,” said Mitchell.
A message Mitchell wears on his chest: Give Life.