Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Other Kidney Story

Argh. My apologies to Bucks County’s Jerry Alampi, who I mentioned in my column today about Aretha Swift, a kidney patient whose need for a transplant is being advertised on 24 billboards.

The Other Kidney Story


Argh. My apologies to Bucks County’s Jerry Alampi, who I mentioned in my column today about Aretha Swift, a kidney patient whose need for a transplant is being advertised on 24 billboards.

I mentioned that Alampi’s own billboard campaign netted him a life-saving kidney this time last year. I wrote that he had “bought” the billboard that generated the TV publicity that attracted the donor who eventually gave hima kidney.

There was no purchase. Multiple billboards were donated, and the way the campaign unfolded is a wonderful story all on its own.

Alampi is a driver’s ed teacher in the Central Bucks school district. One day last year, one of his students, Ben Hamalian, mentioned that a former student, Kristi Seveg, worked in the outdoor-advertising business.

Jerry, who was on dialysis at the time, teasingly asked, “Hey, can she get me a billboard?”

"I meant it as a joke," Alampi says. "I mean, Ben was only in tenth grade at the time. He was a kid."

But the enterprising Hamalian contacted Seveg, who used her connections with Clear Channel and The Drew Katz Foundation to donate space on seven billboards to advertise Alampi's need for a kidney. Three of the billboards were in Bucks County, one was in New Jersey, and there was one each on I-95, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Walt Whitman Bridge.

His eventual donor, veterinarian Marian Boden, responded to his request after she saw TV coverage about Alampi’s billboards, which read: "Will You Be My Angel? I Need A Kidney." Boden's kidney was a perfect match, and the surgery took place last June. Next Thursday, the two will celebrate the first anniversary of the transplant.

So, with my apologies for the error in my column, here's to Alampi’s continued good health (he feels great) and to Boden’s generosity in stepping up for a stranger.

A stranger she’d never have known about if two big-hearted young people and two generous billboard companies had not taken his need to heart.

(To see Alampi and Boden post-op, click the video below by NBC-10's LuAnn Cahn.)

Daily News Columnist
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When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

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Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.

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