Montgomery woman behind ‘Verna Needs a Kidney’ billboards finally getting a new kidney

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Verna Johnson thought she knew what to expect.

For years, Johnson sat by her sister Marcella’s side as she battled kidney disease. In 2015, Marcella died waiting for a new kidney, her name on the same waiting list for the past 11 years.

By 2017, Johnson herself was diagnosed with kidney disease. What came next was something she had never expected.

“I felt her pain,” the Montgomery native said. “It made me more aware of what she was going through.”

As she went through treatment, Johnson had good days and bad days, days when she thought she would be able to overcome her disease and other days when she felt she would end up like her sister, waiting for a kidney that would never come.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are over 100,000 people waiting for kidney transplants, some of which can take between three to five years or longer to come. Every 14 minutes, someone is added to the waiting list. Every day, at least 13 people on the waiting list die.

Instead of waiting for a new kidney to be given to her, Johnson decided to find her one herself. In April, she began putting up billboards in different parts of Birmingham and Montgomery with the words “VERNA NEEDS A KIDNEY” printed in bold letters, along with the phone number for UAB Medical Center.

Last week, Johnson met Jaime Burchfield, a teller at the credit union for the Jefferson County Health Department, who offered to donate one of her kidneys to her. The meeting and revelation were all captured on a video posted to Facebook.

“As you go through this journey, when you find out you have a donor, there’s an overwhelming feeling of joy and there’s this peace that comes over you,” Johnson said. “This is all God. We do the work and God will do the rest.”

Like Johnson, Burchfield felt their meeting was part of some divine intervention. In fact, it was through Church of the Highlands, where Burchfield goes to church, that she found out about Johnson’s story.

“I actually saw it on the church’s Facebook page back in the spring,” Burchfield said.

Over the coming weeks, Burchfield felt called to help Johnson by donating one of her kidneys to her. They were both the same blood type — O positive — and Burchfield felt that if she had the ability to give something Johnson needed, she should do it.

“God just placed this desire in my heart, like he was saying ‘Jaime, I need you to do this,'” she said.

Johnson calls Burchfield her “angel.”

“I knew God would send someone,” she said.

Now, Johnson believes she has been given a new start.

“This has given me a sense of power, a sense of wanting to help others and encourage them,” she said. “I want to be a voice for others and continue working on their behalf.”

The procedure is scheduled for the end of the month at UAB Hospital.

Look for the full CBS 42 story that will air Thursday.


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