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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Woman Tries to Sell Kidney to Pay Debts

For the last six months, Svetlana Golovina has worked 18 hours a day selling lipstick and hair combs in a Rostov-on-Don market to pay off a $45,000 debt. But when her son was arrested on a drug charge in January, Golovina said it was the last straw.

In desperation, she wrote to both local and national newspapers, offering to sell something she hopes will solve her dire financial situation. The mother of three, who used to work as a hairdresser, said she could see no other way to get around the problem except by selling one of her kidneys.

"I simply want to pay back the money I owe," a distraught Golovina said in a telephone interview. "People who have been run over by buses survive on one kidney, so I can live on one, too."

Larissa Khachikova, a close friend who has allowed Golovina and her two daughters to stay in her small apartment for the past year, said Golovina had reached the end of her tether.

"She saw a program on television that talked about organ donors, and she decided that was her only way out," Khachikova said.

But the medical institute in Rostov-on-Don, in southern Russia, has refused to take Golovina's kidney, and transplant specialists in Moscow say her proposal is unrealistic.

"Obviously, this woman is in a desperate position," said Leonid Vinnitsky at the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences' National Research Center of Surgery, which has successfully transplanted 1,347 kidneys since 1965. "But realistically speaking, it is almost impossible that her kidneys will be suitable for someone to whom she is not related."

Vinnitsky said the preliminary process could go on for months, involving hundreds of tests. "Even if she found someone who wanted to buy her organ, there is a possibility that her body will not be able to function with only one kidney," he said.

Vinnitsky refused to speculate as to how much Golovina could receive for her kidney. "People will pay whatever they have," he said. "It could be 5 rubles [about 75 cents], it could be a million."

One local newspaper agreed to publish Golovina's advertisement, but so far no prospective buyers have contacted her.

Nevertheless, Golovina is determined to sell in order to pay off her colossal debt, amassed by borrowing from friends. She used the money to pay for bulk goods purchased in Moscow, which she then sold at a profit on the Rostov market. But when one day last year the middlemen failed to deliver the goods, Golovina found herself hoodwinked out of $45,000. Khachikova said Golovina's creditors sent hired thugs to her apartment demanding that she pay the money immediately.

"They threatened to kidnap her daughters," Khachikova said. "They are afraid to go out anymore. They stay in the apartment all day in hiding."

In January, Golovina's son Artur, who was living with her sister, was thrown out of the apartment. "His aunt ... called the police and told them to remove him from the apartment," Khachikova said.

According to Khachikova, not only did police forcibly remove him from the building, they planted drugs on him by slipping them into his pocket while he was looking the other way.

"Now he is in jail, and [Svetlana] cannot even afford to pay for a lawyer to defend him," she said. "It is a terrible situation."

"She is a proud woman, and she thought she could earn the money back from hard work," Khachikova added. "But her children are more important to her than anything else. She would sell her heart for them if she could."