Deb Malewski

Contributing Writer

Franklin South, 16, known by friends and family as “Frankie,” has had kidney disease his entire life. Born prematurely to a troubled mom with substance abuse issues, Frankie faced a very uncertain future.

That future was made brighter in 2005 when Rob and Dawn South of Eaton Rapids adopted Frankie and his siblings, Leah, and Bennett (Bennie). All three children, though, require attention to varying special needs. 

Frankie’s needs have increased as he’s gotten older, and now he is left with few choices to combat his failing kidney — dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Complicating the matter, Frankie’s most serious issues involve his emotional dysfunction. He has difficulty dealing with the world, at home and at school. He attends Meadowview School in Charlotte to help him with his special needs.

His emotional issues have resulted in dialysis being only a last resort option. He would have a very hard time emotionally handling dialysis, his parents feel, and it would add another layer of stress for the entire family due to the distance and time needed.

This leaves a kidney transplant as the only viable solution; a half a million-dollar option, most of which would be covered by Medicaid, Michigan’s Special Healthcare Services, and Social Security. With stage 5-kidney disease and his remaining kidney function starting to decline, Frankie is high on the transplant list, but still it could take years before a cadaver donor is found. 

The Souths are hoping for a living donor, which would be much faster for Frankie. 

“I need to find people willing to donate a kidney, and that’s a big ask,” Rob South said.

Rob, though, is not looking for handouts. 

“Building my business is one of the best ways to help Frankie and my family as we head into this next journey in our lives,” he said.

As a realtor, he prefers to work to build up his business to be able to support his family as they travel this difficult journey, and selling houses is the best way for him to do that. Go to to learn more about buying or selling a home.

Rob said he hopes to raise awareness, in general, for kids needing pediatric transplants.

To donate a kidney to Frankie or others who are in need, please fill out the donor form at the University of Michigan Kidney Transplant Donor Form website and put Franklin South as the intended recipient. Frankie has type A-positive blood. 

It is possible to live with only one kidney, but Frankie was born with one dead kidney and the other was damaged. As he has aged, the remaining kidney started to fail also.

Rob also encourages you to donate to the Michigan Chapter of the Kidney Foundation.