Woman's sign at a hockey game, pleading for a kidney donor, goes viral

Kelly Sowatsky went to Saturday’s Pittsburgh Penguins game with a lofty goal in mind — to score a kidney donor.

Sowatsky is suffering from kidney failure, and out of desperation, she brought a homemade sign expressing this to the crowd this past weekend. Luckily for the 30-year-old, her plea has been seen by not only hockey fans but also the world, thanks to Twitter.

(Photo: Twitter/penguins)

Before the game even started, Sowatsky got to work trying to get noticed. “So when the players were playing during warm ups, I was down on the front glass so I would hold it like this so Jake Guentzel could see it from the ice,” she told FOX 43, referring to one of the players seeing the sign that read, “Hey Guentzel I’d love a hockey stick…but what I really need…is a kidney.” The other side read, “Calling all hockey fans! I need a kidney!” Both sides had her phone number in big bold font.

Within minutes, a picture of her holding the sign hit social media thanks to the team’s official Twitter account, and the message began to spread.

“I mean all these unknown numbers in here…they just keep coming,” Sowatsky said of the response.

This is great news considering her kidney function has dropped to 10 percent, and the transplant waiting list is five years long. Her kidney failure is the result of a UTI that turned septic and caused a lengthy hospital stay from December 2015 to January 2016, according to FOX 43 and NHL.com. The infection spread to Sowatsky’s lungs, causing her breathing to stop on Dec. 27, 2015. She was on a ventilator for 12 days before the infection attacked her kidneys. On top of that, her muscles atrophied from the bed rest, so she had to relearn how to walk, forcing her to take a semester off from Millersville University in Pennsylvania, where she was studying to become an elementary school teacher.

One good thing to come of this was meeting her fiancé Tyler Hart during her time off, and he’s the one who got her into hockey.

With their wedding scheduled for May 2019, Sowatsky realized she needed to take drastic measures for her health (hence the sign). “As I noticed the decrease in my kidney function, I thought, I need to get on it,” she told NHL.com.

This was not the way Sowatsky anticipated getting an organ. “I didn’t want to put it out there, but you can’t gamble with your life. I need help,” she shared. According to NHL.com, Sowatsky had received more than 30 calls and messages on her phone and countless other messages via social media after the Penguins and NHL shared it, and that was days ago.

But this isn’t the first time Sowatsky asked the hockey world for help. She brought a sign during the Penguins’ game against the New Jersey Devils Feb. 3, according to NHL.com. Luckily, this time has been more successful.

“I never imagined in a million years though that it was going to reach as many people as it did,” Sowatsky told FOX.

“It’s beyond my wildest dreams that there would be an interaction like this that would just help her and help us in such a tremendous way,” said Hart. “It’s one of those moments that honestly restores your faith in humanity.”

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