LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Antonio Calderon needs a new kidney.
One of his best friends wasn’t a match, so the friend — namely Ilya Polyakov — came up with the next best idea.
Polyakov raised money to put up a billboard seeking donors.
As CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Tom Wait found, the billboard or the sentiment behind it are hard to miss.
“If you’re driving on the west side,” he reported, “you might see Antonio’s face looking down at you. And his billboard is calling out to anyone who can help for a cure.”
Calderon has FSGS or “Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.”
Translation, he has bad kidneys.
“I just got bum kidneys. It’s not a hereditary thing, it’s just bad luck,” he says.
Calderon, 31, has been on dialysis for kidney failure two years. That means every night he has to hook himself up to a machine.
His suffering was more than Ilya could take.
“I tried to be a donor for Antonio two years ago and unfortunately due to my own health I was not a compatible match,” says Polyakov.
He found a way to raise $5,000 to rent a billboard on Mississippi and Barrington asking for potential kidney donors to come forward.
“I couldn’t really think of a more visible way than a 48 x 14 foot billboard that is there for the city to see,” says Polyakov.
Now the hard part. Finding a donor is not easy. There’s a number of health requirements and blood type compatibility issues. It’s difficult – but not impossible.
Antonio says the effort has deeply touched his heart.
“It’s incredible, it’s surreal. I have no words all the time. Everyone asked me, how do you feel? – grateful is all I can say,” he says.
Polyakov doesn’t think what he did was any big deal.
“You want to do something and short of giving your own body part, you know if that doesn’t work, it’s like – well, what do you do? Being able to take the steps to do something tangible was like super gratifying for me,” he says.
Calderon says the response from online and the billboard has been great but he still hasn’t found a match.