NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — When Elena DePaolo turned 24, bright spots became hard to find.
"I basically walked right out of cancer with kidney disease," DePaolo said.
"It wasn't to the point where it was bad enough to the point where doctors told me I couldn't try and get pregnant," she added. "We did have a child, but she did not make it."
So she decided to create her own at 28. She and her husband Frank adopted their son Lorenzo when he was a baby. He's now almost 2 years old.
"Lorenzo has changed my life. He saved me in so many ways," Elena said.
All he had to do was infect his mother with his laugh.
"It is. It's contagious," Elena said. "When I feel sad and he just looks at me and goes 'mama,' and points at me and smiles. How does that not just fill your heart with joy?"
Even through all that light, there was darkness.
"Watching her be in pain and struggle, it's hard," Frank DePaolo said.
"I was supposed to have a transplant on Monday," Elena said. "It just wasn't a good enough match."
The kidney Elena had been searching for by posting fliers all around town was gone in an instant.
"I want this more than anything. Every railroad track I drive over, I lift my feet and I pray for a kidney. Every 11:11, I hope for a kidney. It's just that's what I need and that's what I want and that's what my son needs from me," Elena said.
Now Elena is updating those fliers to replace her kidneys, operating at only 15 percent, so she doesn't miss a thing.
" 'Mama' was actually (Lorenzo's) first word," Elena said. "Ten years from now, my son is going to be almost 12, and I want to be a part of his life. I want to be a part of all the good things he goes through and that he experiences."
"If I don't get a transplant, I'll die on dialysis, and I'm not ready for that."
She has to be here for the bright light she finally found.
"I used to think I was cursed that I couldn't have my own kids, but it's because (Lorenzo) was waiting for me," Elena said.
Elena DePaolo needs O+/- or A+/- donor.
If you're interested in donating, contact ECMC at 716-898-5001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.