'Our Friend Eileen Needs a Kidney.' Brookfield woman needs 3rd kidney transplant
Drive down Federal Road in Danbury, and you can't miss Eileen Routhier's smiling face and the meaningful message beside it: "Our Friend Eileen Needs a Kidney." The billboard is the latest effort in the campaign to find the 52-year-old Brookfield woman a donor for the third time.
"I definitely feel loved, and, you know, I'm humbled by it," Routhier told News 12.
Routhier's health issues began when she was 18.
"I got diagnosed with systemic lupus, and it started attacking my kidneys right away," she said.
Routhier's kidneys began to fail after having her second child. At 32, she got her first transplant thanks to her sister. For 15 years, she lived a normal, healthy life.
"Until my sister's kidney started creating antibodies that started attacking the kidney," Routhier explained.
That complication prevented Routhier from getting a kidney from another family member. Doctors said she had to look elsewhere. Word got out at her workplace, Down the Hatch in Brookfield. That's where Nancy Lavoie came in.
"We worked together for years. She was a bartender, I was a waitress on the floor," Lavoie said. "I had no idea you could give an organ while you're alive, so I went and got tested, and I was a match."
Lavoie successfully donated a kidney to Routhier in late 2016.
"And I've never regretted it. Just looking at her and watching her getter better each day was more than rewarding enough," Lavoie told News 12. "I missed a few weeks of work but carried on my life with no issues."
The same couldn't be said for Routhier who soon had other health issues. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Then came skin cancer. She beat both but the treatments and stress on her body took a toll on her kidney.
"So now I'm back in that same boat and looking for my third transplant," Routhier said.
Once again, Lavoie has stepped up. She's leading the effort to find a match.
"She's just had a lot of hard knocks. We want to see it go the other way. We want to see that smiling Eileen healthy again," Lavoie said. "This woman never gets sad or mad. She just keeps going day to day and never loses faither that it's going to go the way it needs to go."
Lavoie made fliers for tables at Down the Hatch and other Brookfield restaurants to get the word out. She also has a sign and Donate Life flag outside her home.
"There isn't a kinder person I know," Lavoie said.
Routhier told News 12 she's overwhelmed by the support and is optimistic it will educate people about being a living donor.
"I hope that it brings awareness, not just for me. I want to help other people too," said Routhier.
Routhier has been on the national organ list for a cadaver kidney for about 1.5 years. She said it's estimated she has another 2.5 years on the list.
"I'm on dialysis now, and it's hard. Every time you go it just puts a strain on your body so my best bet physically is to have a live donor," Routhier explained.
If you're interested in becoming a potential donor or want to help Routhier, click here.