Kevin Calhoun and his family.

MTN Spotlight – Kevin Calhoun, Recipient

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Kevin Calhoun and his family.

Celebrating Father’s Day: “A heart transplant allowed us to have our son.”

A heart transplant, an athletic competition, and a chance encounter that led to love are the elements of a great adventure, a life’s story, and a reason to celebrate Father’s Day.

In 2017, Kevin Calhoun traveled to Spain for the World Transplant Games. He’d had a heart transplant a few years earlier and was ready to compete in soccer and pétanque.

That same year, Kaci Keller was invited by a friend to support her at the World Transplant Games. Her friend asked “Do you want to travel with me? I want to go to Spain. I want to compete.”

Kaci said, “Yes, let’s go.”

Kevin lived in Kansas City and Kaci lived in Florida. They didn’t know each other but met at Team USA gatherings at the World Transplant Games, started talking and “kind of hit it off.” At the end of the week, it was time to go back home. Kaci shared part of a conversation with Kevin. “He said, ‘I didn’t come here looking for someone, but I like you. Can I call you when we get back to the states?’” They kept in touch with each other and within a year, they were engaged.

Now they have a family, and their son, Kyle, is 4.

“It’s such a blessing and we would not be here if it was not for the heart transplant that Kevin had and truly received the gift of life,” said Kaci.

“Kevin gets to celebrate Father’s Day because his heart transplant allowed us to have our son.”

“It’s the most fantastic thing in the world,” said Kevin. “Every day, I’m just amazed at our son’s smartness, creativity and his ability. I have my wife to thank, I have the Lord to thank, and my donor to thank. It sounds cliché but I until you’re a father, you really don’t know what it’s like.”

Kevin’s Heart Transplant Journey

In 2008, Kevin was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a disease of the heart muscle that causes the heart to have a harder time pumping blood to the rest of the body, which could lead to symptoms of heart failure.

For about eight years, he lived with the condition with medications, diet and a careful regimen. “But it pretty much got to a point where advanced surgery, or you know, a transplant was going to be needed,” he said.

“I waited a couple of weeks and that’s about when I received my gift.”  He recalled the moment by saying he “prayed that night to God and just kind of asked, ‘Prepare me for whatever this is going to look like, that way, I can kind of psychologically get prepared.’ And then that same night, I fell asleep so hard, which you never do in a hospital. I was awakened by my nurses, and they told me that my gift of life was ready.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about, but pretty much that same night was when I got my answer and received my gift thanks to my donor and his family, and it’s been good.”

Thankful to Donors

Kevin Calhoun sincerely appreciates donor heroes and their families.

“I think the focus needs to be on donor families because of what they’ve gone through to lose someone very valuable and important in their life, for someone else to be given a chance, to keep carrying on.”

He has had some correspondence with the donor family but is sensitive to speaking about the donor hero and their family out of respect.

From what he’s learned about his donor hero, the family has “painted a really nice picture of what he was like. And he was a really stellar, independent human being and what he was doing with his life is fantastic. It’s just a shame that it got taken so shortly, which makes it kind of hard to receive the gift, but at the same time…thank you.”

Together, the Calhouns are volunteer Ambassadors who represent Midwest Transplant Network by sharing information and enhancing awareness of what it means to be a registered organ, eye and tissue donors.

Father’s Day Fun

The Calhouns will celebrate Father’s Day weekend with family.

“We have a big family reunion with a lot of family from out of town. There will be a lot of fathers hanging out. Kaci, Kyle and I will probably go to the park after church on Sunday to take Kyle fishing. He’s really been getting into it.”