COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Ann Mills hopes for a miracle.
"Who wouldn’t?" she asked.
Mills, a nurse who once worked as part of the University of Cincinnati Hospital’s transplant team, was herself diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and end stage kidney failure in October. Without a kidney transplant, she will have to start dialysis in the weeks leading up to the new year -- and she may have only five years left to spend with her husband and children.
But Mills refuses to let this dire prognosis defeat her.
“I’m not going to let this get me down,” she said. “I’m going to push through this. Only 2.5 percent of people, once they know they need a transplant, are able to find a kidney donor before dialysis, and I want to be part of that 2.5 percent."
Since her diagnosis, Mills and her family have worked tirelessly to spread the word and search for a donor wherever one might be found. She makes ‘A kidney for Ann' yard signs in her kitchen and hung one on her garage door; her son Andy, a senior at St. Xavier High School, makes more yard signs with friends at school.
Andy, who said learning about Ann's diagnosis refocused his priorities on family, worries about his mother and about whether she will be able to attend his college graduation. Ann's husband, Alex, said he believes his wife is the perfect candidate for a kidney donation.
"I you were ever considering doing something for somebody, I can’t think of anybody who deserves it more than she does," said Alex Mills.
Asking is hard, and Ann Mills knows that giving is hard, too. She said she respects the decision of anyone who chooses not to donate a kidney, but she cannot give up on the hope that the right person -- one who is both willing and able to give a life-saving Christmas gift -- is close enough to be reached by her signs and prayers.
"I believe that there is a donor out there," she said. "I believe that there is a match."
Mills and her family members all know the road ahead will be difficult, and they know that the time they have together could be limited. They said they planned to leave soon for a holiday vacation to relax, laugh and create fond memories that can sustain them through the journey ahead.
"I’m going to make it," Mills said through tears. "I promised my son I would be here, and I will make it."
If you think you may be a match for Ann Mills, visit the National Kidney Foundation online for more information about becoming a living donor.