By Michelle Powers
Times Square is home to the most foot traffic in the busiest city in the world. But one man’s soles, weigh heavier than the others.
As Marc Weiner looks up at one billboard, he says out loud, “There we go.” He’s looking at his face on a 5,000 square foot billboard. It’s his formal introduction to more than half a million pedestrians a day.
“Like my wife said, this is a matter of life and death.”
The former newsman has eight seconds to make the pitch of his life–before the advertising changes. The billboard reads, “I need a kidney. You can help!”
Back at Marc’s home on Long Island– the glow of Times Square feels far away, but the much dimmer reality remains the same. His wife, Lisa, says, “I almost don’t remember anything before. This has become our new normal.”
Even though it was only two years ago, Lisa, can’t remember the way it was before Marc got an aggressive cancer, one that removed his kidneys, prostate and bladder. Pictures now mark a divide in their lives–before Marc got sick, and after.
Lisa says there’s a common misconception when it comes to needing a kidney. “Everybody says ‘oh, you’ll go on the list right,’ no…the list is seven to ten years, he can’t go on the list.”
It was her idea to light her husband’s face up 24/7. Ir’s a last resort, but one bright enough to see from space.
That’s where Dawn Del Mastro-Chruma comes in. She’s been Lisa’s friend for decades and she’s the president of the company that owns Marc’s billboard. She calls this advertisement a “call to action.” The Catholic offered the Weiners the space for free–at two minutes an hour–a fee that normally costs $30,000 dollars a month.
Del Mastro-Chruma says, “This is asking people to go do something, to do something that is very important.”
That’s Marc’s other goal: not only to get a kidney, but more importantly, to raise awareness about the needs and lack of organ donations around the country.
New York may have some of the best hospitals, but it is one of the worst states to be on a waiting list to receive an organ donation. It has the lowest rate of organ donor registration in the country. Every year, about 500 New York residents on the waiting list die because of a statewide organ shortage. That’s one death every 18 hours. At this moment there’s more than 7,000 people waiting for a kidney in New York State. Lisa says, “That’s why casting a wide net is so important.”
So Marc’s dialysis continues, and it will until he finally gets a kidney. The average life expectancy for someone on dialysis is five to ten years, though many live well beyond twenty.
Marc says the hardest part about all of this, is when people wonder if he is dying. “You see people start to wonder is this guy going to pull through, is he getting sicker, is he going to die? It’s the worst.”
But Marc still remains optimistic, going to dinners with his wife and basketball games with his daughter. He’s living life at the same time he’s waiting for it.
Lisa believes no matter how hard this journey is, it was chosen for them. “There’s a saying that God gives you what you can handle. We are on a path that hopefully will give us the ending we deserve.”