ATLANTA - For the last two years, Ramonie Smith has spent 12 to 15 hours every night hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine in the bedroom of her grandmother's apartment.
“I am used to it now. It's just kind of normal for me. But I'm ready for a new normal. I'm ready for a change,” the sixteen-year-old Duluth High School junior said.
With Ramonie's particular kidney disorder, she can't receive an organ from a dead donor and her body will reject organs from 99 percent of the population.
"Sometimes you feel trapped. That's why I finding a living donor is so important, you know so I can get my freedom. I want to be free," the teenager told FOX 5's Portia Bruner.
But Ramonie doesn't let her disease slow her down during the day. She works several hours a week at the Chick-fil-A on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and she's looking forward to her junior year. Despite the need to find someone in 1 percent of the population whose kidney she can accept, she remains confident she will receive a new organ.
"You always have to look at the bright side of things. And God is on my side and I know that means anything is possible," she said with a smile.
Inspired by that positive outlook, Ramani's mother and grandmother decided to step up their approach to find a living donor--going beyond her popular Facebook page to a much bigger platform. They wanted to buy billboards along metro Atlanta interstates. Brenda sharp, Ramonie's grandmother, reached out to Out Front Media to inquire about ad rates. A company spokeswoman told Bruner they were moved by Ramonie's story and partnered with the family to create three digital billboards--two in Fulton County and one in Cobb County.
Miss Sharp even put her own cell phone number on the billboard to make sure anyone with questions about Ramani's condition could get everything they needed to know to reach out to Emory's transplant coordinator.
"I've had people as old as 80 call me and say I'm old, but my kidneys still work and I would like to help. And I heard from the mother of a 13-year-old girl who knew her daughter was too young to help, but just wanted to do what she could because she saw the ad," said Sharp.
The spokesman for Out Front Media told Bruner the three billboards will remain posted for another week. The family said it will be another couple of weeks before they know how many people actually called Emory and signed up to help.
"I'm just so grateful to everyone who's even called. My daughter is amazing and I don't know anyone with more resilience, strength, and faith. She just has such a positive outlook and deserves to live a full life," said Ramonie's mother Melissa Sharp.