A Bellmore man is using social media to spread the word about his search for a living kidney donor. Four hours a day, three days a week, Geff Gruber, 31, undergoes dialysis, the standard treatment for kidney failure, at a dialysis center in Freeport. This has been his weekly routine since June.
“Physically, it’s very draining, but today I’m feeling OK,” he told the Herald. “Most days are kind of rough, and any kind of exertion just makes it worse.” Before his diagnosis, Gruber had an active, healthy lifestyle, he said, and enjoyed fishing, working out and hiking. Now, he said, he has to “take it easy.”
Finding a donor is imperative, because the kidney that’s failing is the only one he has.
In his mid-20s, Gruber was “big into bodybuilding,” he said, and when he had routine blood work done at age 26, doctors noted high levels of creatinine in his blood, which can indicate that the kidneys aren’t functioning well. A subsequent sonogram found that Gruber had been born with only one kidney, a fact that had evaded doctors for 26 years.
“It was kind of a big shock,” he said. “Since I was a kid no one figured this out, and a lot could’ve been prevented.”
The doctors explained that Gruber would need a kidney transplant sometime in his mid-30s, and the need manifested earlier than expected, when he began to feel dizzy at work last June. He went to the hospital and started dialysis shortly after that visit.
Although he is currently listed at NYU Langone in Mineola to receive a kidney transplant, Gruber could be waiting for more than a decade for a cadaver kidney, which he said would only last about 15 years. If he receives a kidney from a living donor, however, the organ “could last 25 years, maybe more,” he said.
Since he is unable to work while undergoing dialysis, and health insurance costs have skyrocketed as a result of the treatment, his sister, Noelle, started a GoFundMe page in October to help him pay the bills. It has since raised more than $4,300.
“We’ve had people offering money that don’t have a lot,” said Gruber’s mother, Fran. “Especially at this time, where so many families are out of work, for their kindness to come forward like that, we’re extremely thankful.”
The social media frenzy surrounding Gruber’s search for a donor began as “Supernatural” — his favorite television show — was coming to an end. Noelle posted her brother’s story and a photo of him in a funny “Supernatural” shirt on Twitter to catch the attention of other fans, “and it kind of blew up from there,” she said.
For Christmas, Noelle devised a very special gift for her brother to open. It was a cameo video from actor Mark Pellegrino, who portrays the archangel Lucifer on the show. Gruber’s story has also caught the attention of “Supernatural” actors Timothy Omundson and Samantha Smith, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” comedian Colin Mochrie and deathcore guitarist Tim Howley, of Amityville, from the band Fit for an Autopsy.
“The power of fandom is really interesting,” Noelle said. “There’s a lot of good people out there who want to help — we just have to find the right one.”
Gruber has also used Instagram and TikTok to share his journey with fellow users and expand his search. And although the search continues, he said he is positive about finding a match.
“Every share is a potential donor,” he said. “Doing something as small as that does go a long way. It only takes a few seconds out of your day, and you could [help] save someone’s life.”
To donate to Gruber’s page, visit www.gofundme.com/f/geff-needs-a-kidney. Potential donors or anyone with questions can contact him directly on Instagram @bbmaktiger or email email@example.com.