PHOENIX — Nino DiGiulio has made a life for himself selling homes in what's become one of the hottest markets in the country. The 57-year-old says nearly every home in a newly developing Casa Grande neighborhood is already sold and accounted for.
The one sale he hasn't made yet is to convince a healthy person to give him a kidney.
"It's much easier to sell a home,” he said.
Nino’s challenges with his health started when he was young.
“Being Italian, my mom and dad always made sure I had a lot of food. Kind of caught up with me,” he said.
Then years ago, he was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.
When that got worse, his doctor told him one of his kidneys was failing and he needed a transplant.
He says doctors told him it would take anywhere from three to seven years to find a donor.
So, in the meantime, he's been doing dialysis three times a week for three to four hours each session. To make matters more urgent for Nino’s need for a kidney transplant, doctors told him the vein in his arm was collapsing during dialysis.
That led to doctors putting a catheter in his chest for his nine hours of dialysis every week. Doctors explained to Nino the catheter is more susceptible to scar tissue buildup and possible infection.
To pass the time, Nino says he reads books, does business, or talks on the phone while his blood is being filtered through a machine – doing what a healthy kidney would be doing.
"The quality of life is diminished when you're having to be on a machine," he said.
One day his sister in Texas, Laura Farrell, called and said she’s sending him a decal for his quicksand-colored Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck.
The decal on his tailgate reads, ‘I NEED A KIDNEY, CAN YOU HELP?’ underneath the handle to drop the tailgate is an email address, email@example.com.
Driving from Mesa to get to his office in Casa Grande is about an hour-long drive on I-10, sometimes longer.
That kind of commute could be discouraging for many but for Nino, all those drivers seeing his decal could be the person that saves his life.
“When they're passing me, they slow up,” he said.
When Nino and Laura’s father recently passed, Laura made sure to do all she could to keep her brother healthy.
"You can't go around asking everybody you know, 'can you donate your kidney?' It's not an easy question,” said Laura. So she came up with the decal in hopes to catch the eye of a generous donor.
So far, Nino says he's gotten several emails of support.
He said one employee at a car wash came forward saying she would help, but she later found out she wasn't old enough to donate a kidney.
The price of the decal cost Laura about $30 - but if someone out there ends up being a willing match for Nino to keep him healthy - it'll be the best money she's ever spent.
“I talk to my sister and my mom every single day. Getting a new kidney would allow me to have that freedom, and not have the leash of the dialysis machine. I can go and come wherever I want,” said Nino.