If you could save the life of a stranger, would you? Josh Dall-Leighton, a 30-year-old Windham man is doing just that. Dall-Leighton is scheduled to donate one of his kidneys to 24-year-old Christine Royles, a woman he’d never met before he saw her plea for a kidney painted on her back windshield.
In December of 2013, Royles fell ill. After having flu-like symptoms for a few weeks, she went to Maine Medical Center, where it was discovered she had kidney failure. Royles had not been sick previously, and they didn’t know then what caused the kidney failure, she said. She began dialysis on Christmas Eve 2013, and was later diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases - Lupus and ANCA Vasculitis.
In July 2014, Royles began home dialysis, which she does each night for 10 to 10 ½ hours. She was also put on the national transplant list for a kidney. In November, Royles took matters into her own hands and asked for help in a unique way – by writing a new message each week on the back windshield of her car. She received approximately 50 inquiries as a result of these messages and a local news profile. One of those inquiries was Josh’s wife, Ashley Dall-Leighton.
The message that caught the attention of the Dall-Leightons said that her 2-year-old son needed a healthy mom. Josh said that when he saw the message, he immediately asked Ashley to text Royles to start the process.
“It was that simple to me,” said Josh. “It was about saving a life.” And it was also about keeping a mom around for her child, said Josh. The Dall-Leightons have three boys of their own, 11-month-old twins and a 5-year-old. Their twins were born prematurely, and one has a rare brain condition. Josh said he couldn’t imagine his son growing up without his mother, and that inspired him to want to help Royles and her son. “If I can help and I can keep her here for him, I’m going to do that. It’s not just for her, it’s for him.”
Royles directed the Dall-Leightons to the transplant center to begin the testing process. After filling out the initial medical packet, a fair amount of time passed, Josh said. Then, they received a voice mail that he was a match, and things began to move quickly from there. The surgery is tentatively scheduled for May 19th.
While Ashley said she got a little nervous after learning more about the procedure, she supports her husband completely in his decision. Josh has never wavered in his desire to donate. While he understands that it can be overwhelming to family and friends who are concerned for him, he said “It’s honestly about saving a life, so there’s no question. I’m a match for her, I’m going to help her.”
Royles said that people at work thought her method of soliciting help was weird and creepy, but she had a feeling that it could work. And she didn’t want to wait the two to three years she was told it might take to find her a kidney. She said that she is surprised that Josh is donating to her, particularly since they have three kids and he will have to take unpaid time off for surgery and the three to six week recovery period.
Because he will be taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Josh’s job as a correctional officer at the Southern Maine Re-entry Center, a part of the Maine Correctional Center, is secure. But due to the needs of his children, he uses sick time as soon as he earns it. Therefore, the time he needs off for this procedure will be unpaid unless a decision to deny the use of the sick bank is reversed.
The community is rallying with fundraising efforts including a pancake breakfast fundraiser at Applebee’s in South Portland, where Royles works. The breakfast will be $10 per person, and is scheduled for Sunday, April 12th from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. A GoFundME page has also been set up
(http://www.gofundme.com/ped87w), and with the attention the story has been attracting, over $6,000 had been raised by Wednesday morning.
The story of Josh Dall-Leighton’s selfless act has spread quickly in recent days, from stories in the Portland Press Herald and local news outlets to Today.com and Reuters. This type of attention to the story was unexpected the Dall-Leightons said, though Ashley said that she and Royles had a goal to raise awareness on the issue of organ donation.
Josh said he didn’t know donating a kidney while alive was possible, and if he hadn’t seen the message on Royle’s car, he wouldn’t have even thought about it. “I hope it does raise awareness and that more people will want to step up and at least get through the testing process,” he said. “We all need to help each other out. It’s a crazy world out there and we can’t do it on our own.”
Both Ashley and Josh are Windham High School graduates. After graduating they moved away, but Ashley said that Windham was at the top of the list when choosing where to raise their family, and they returned. Both of the Dall-Leightons said that it’s important to show the positive aspects of life, and they hope that Josh’s donation will change the lives of more people than just Royles. “I want my three boys to understand that the world isn’t such a scary place, and that you can make a difference in somebody else’s life. I don’t want them to just hear that from me. I want them to have seen it,” Josh said.