You may recognize St. Petersburg man Bert Savage as one of the smiling faces of his Tampa law firm’s (Savage Villoch Law) advertisements.
That smiling face, though, waits for a kidney. He’s lived on dialysis, with only one working kidney since 2019.
“It’s not easy, but I try to take it day to day and appreciate the good things I have, like my family,” Savage said. “It’s been two years and dialysis is not easy on the body and not an ideal state of living.”
For four hours a day, five days a week, he gets dialysis at home to cope with the effects of kidney disease. He bikes an average of 15 miles a day and still works full time, but it proves difficult without two fully functioning kidneys.
None of Savage’s family members have physically compatible kidneys, so the 56-year-old father of two waits for a type O donor with applicable antibodies.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, type O has the longest wait time.
“It’s like finding the needle in 10 haystacks,” Savage said.
As a high school athlete going out for track, Savage tested positive for early signs of kidney disease during a doctor‘s visit.
“The doctor told me, this could be nothing or you could need a kidney one day,” Savage recalls.
Fast forward 13 years later. 28-year-old Savage, training for the Chicago Marathon, notices his feet swell suddenly. The intense physical training activated his kidney disease.
It also destroyed his kidneys.
He received his first kidney transplant from a compatible cousin in 1992, within a few months of his diagnosis. That organ lasted 29 years.
“It’s literally life saving, life giving,” Savage said. “I think it was a tough kidney but I also took really good care of such an important gift.”
The Big Ask
Time is running out.
Wendy met Savage while training for the Chicago Marathon, so she’s always known this day would come.
That doesn’t make it any easier.
“I worry about my kids more than I worry about myself,” Wendy told The Gabber. “I want my kids to have a dad, a healthy and active dad.”
He could get matched with an unrelated donor or a deceased donor through the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), but a direct donation, his family says, is his best bet.
Medicare covers the cost of the donor’s medical expenses, and other programs may cover the cost of lost work time for donors.
Still, it’s a big, ask – but a necessary one.
Follow Savage’s story on Facebook at facebook.com/kidneyforbertsavage/
Interested in testing as a match? tampagenerallivingdonation.org