JJ "Jay" DeArruda, the owner of 401 Motoring and father to 5-year-old Liam, is seeking an organ from someone with his same rare blood type

As the longtime owner of 401 Motoring in Portsmouth, JJ “Jay” DeArruda puts his heart and soul into the automobile renovation and detailing business he founded in 1995. Five days a week, he’s in the shop at 6:30 in the morning and doesn’t leave until 8:30 at night. He’s there Saturdays, too.

These days, all that work is little more draining for the Portsmouth resident.

In June 2019, DeArruda, 46, was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney disease and will need a transplant in order to survive. The diagnosis has taken its toll on DeArruda physically, and on his family. 

“We were in complete shock,” said Aileen Halloran DeArruda, Jay’s wife of 15 years. “It was like, ‘Wait, what?’ because he was feeling fine.”

Since he was 17 years old, Jay has been treating colitis, a disease that affects the inner lining of the colon. During some routine blood work in April, doctors discovered Jay’s kidney levels were dangerously low. More tests were performed, and in June, the DeArrudas learned a transplant would be needed.

Aileen says her husband is a quiet person who doesn’t seek attention and, coupled with the fact his Type O blood is extremely rare, was hesitant to spread the word about needing a kidney donor.

“When we found out Type O was rare and finding a donor is difficult, it was a punch in the gut,” Aileen said. “I think that’s why Jay dragged his feet.”

But in December, spurred by his not-so-shy wife, Jay made a Facebook post detailing what he’s going through and how people can help. The post has been shared nearly a thousand times, and according to Aileen, the representative at Rhode Island Hospital with whom the DeArrudas are working said the response from potential donors has been strong.

Jay learned in November he was eligible to be placed on the Rhode Island donor list, though that could up to six or seven years before he reaches the top. Doctors told him he has about another year before his current kidneys completely fail and he has to be placed on dialysis.

The parents of a 5-year-old son named Liam, the DeArrudas are ready for a fight against Jay’s kidney disease.

“He’s going to put his all into it — if not for himself, for Liam,” Aileen said. “Like any human being, he’s scared, but he’s going to give it his all. We’re going to beat this. It’s just a bump in the road.”

Potential donors are asked to call Sara Gibb at Rhode Island Hospital at 401-444-3091.

sbarrett@newportri.com