Newport man who needs a transplant wants you to meet his big, dumb kidneys

LOS ANGELES TIMES | Hillary Davis
Gene Okun as a young bodybuilder, and now with airbrushed cartoon kidneys€ on his belly to show the organs'€™ size. (Courtesy of Gene Orkun / Gene's Big Dumb Kidneys)
The 52-year-old Newport Beach resident needs a kidney transplant, preferably from a living donor. To find his match he’s turned to a whimsical social media campaign, branded as Gene’s Big Dumb Kidneys.

On his website, BigDumbKidneys.com, several short videos show him trying to eat, sleep, date and watch TV while his kidneys, personified by two actors comically bumbling about in hooded red bodysuits, get in the way. Lumpy cartoon kidneys with googly eyes are his icons.

“People on the Internet, they don’t want to always see sad stories,” Okun said. “A lot of times they may pass that over. But if somebody sees something funny, maybe they’ll share it.”

It’s a funny presentation, but a serious message.

Okun has polycystic kidney disease, which causes fluid-filled sacs to grow uncontrollably inside kidneys, eventually cutting off their blood-cleansing function. The progressive genetic disease has left Okun with 18% kidney function and sapped his energy, bringing him closer to the dialysis treatments that he doesn’t want.

A healthy kidney is about the size of a fist. Okun’s are the size of footballs. Continue reading

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