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Photo image of Ryan Stoway in a hoodie with a waterfall and wooded scenery in the background.

Donor Hero Said “Yes” to Joining the Registry at the DMV

Photo image of Ryan Stoway in a hoodie with a waterfall and wooded scenery in the background.

Ryan Stoway

In honor of National DMV Appreciation Month, we are honored to share this submitted story about donor hero Ryan Stoway, who believed so much in organ, eye and tissue donation that he enthusiastically said “yes” to joining the registry when he received his permit to drive. Our thanks to Ryan’s mother, Alexis Stoway, for sharing this beautiful story:

“Ryan was a 14-year-old boy with dreams of joining the military or following in his dad’s footsteps as an electrician. He was a born protector, helper and caregiver. He saw what most people didn’t and never hesitated to lend a hand to those who needed him. He had tremendous love for his family, and nothing was more important to him than being with his family and his friends, whom he also thought of as family. He showed such pride to be a part of each and every one of their lives.

He loved being outdoors. Fishing was a passion he shared with his Poppa, uncle and friends. He LOVED playing football! He even liked practicing and off-season training. He enjoyed learning, getting better and stronger each day. Ryan was a 6-foot, 280-pound teddy bear when he wasn’t on the football field. It was often he needed Mom time (yep — he still needed a cuddle). He pulled out the M&M’S® and put on a favorite movie of mine, ‘Top Gun’ or ‘Secretariat,’ and asked me to watch with him.

Ryan always believed in organ donation. He personally saw how organ donation saves and changes lives. When he was 5, his sister received a kidney transplant (she was 3). When he got his permit to drive, he asked the lady taking his picture to redo his permit because it didn’t say he was a donor, and he wanted it on there. When he showed his dad and me, it seemed like he was prouder to be an organ donor than he was that he had passed his test. We were so proud he made that decision all on his own.

When he was finishing his freshman year of high school, he asked me why people had to wait so long for transplants since so many people died every day. I told him not everyone was a donor. He got upset and told me that for his senior project, he was going to tell as many people as possible how organ and tissue donation changes people’s lives. In fact, his exact words were that it ‘changes families’ lives’ and ‘allows people to live a life without jerks making fun of them for being different.’ I sat stunned and cried at my teenage son’s understanding of the difference a selfless choice can make.

It was a little over a month after that conversation that he was in a tragic accident and passed away. They were unable to restart his heart, so his tissues and eyes were donated. He was able to fulfill his wish to be a donor. His sister will take every step with him for the rest of her life, as she was a recipient of one of his tendons, repairing a birth defect in her knee.

We all know Ryan was truly honored to become a donor hero to as many people as he could. I believe he dances in heaven every single time someone gets a part of him, giving them a better quality of life!”

MTN logo

MTN Recovers Organs From First Donor Patient at Specialized, In-House Unit

Midwest Transplant Network (MTN) recently cared for the first organ donor hero at its newly opened Donor Care and Surgical Recovery Unit (DCU). The DCU — housed within MTN’s Westwood, Kansas, headquarters — features a seven-bed intensive care unit (ICU) as well as operating rooms designed specifically for both organ and tissue recovery. Research Medical Center, part of HCA Midwest Health — Kansas City’s largest healthcare provider — worked closely with MTN to coordinate the transfer with the gracious approval of the donor’s family.

This milestone marked the start of a new process for hospitals within Kansas and western Missouri, MTN’s service area. Prior to the DCU’s opening, MTN staff members collaborated with hospitals to care for all organ donors and coordinated with transplant centers in the recovery of organs at the donor’s hospital. Now, authorized donor hero patients who meet specific clinical criteria may be eligible for transport to MTN’s DCU. Transferring donors to MTN’s DCU will minimize the burden on hospitals by freeing up ICU beds, operating rooms, ventilators and critical care staff to care for other medically complex patients. Studies from other organ procurement organizations (OPOs) about this model have shown more organs are provided for transplantation due to the efficacy of the OPO donor care units.

“I am incredibly proud of all the hard work, research and planning our staff members and board have done over the past five years to create the DCU,” said MTN President & Chief Executive Officer Jan Finn, RN, MSN. “MTN foresaw a need to alleviate some burdens on much-needed hospital resources long before the coronavirus pandemic even hit. Now, we know we can provide highly specialized care from expertly trained staff members to our donor heroes and potentially more organs for those desperately awaiting lifesaving transplants.”

This shift comes at a time when OPOs like MTN nationwide are focusing efforts to improve donation outcomes. MTN is the 12th OPO in the nation with a donor care unit/donor recovery center that is not based in a hospital.

MTN also implemented state-of-the-art systems with the installation of a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scanner and cloud-based technology with the ability to remotely connect with surgeons across the country.

“This moment marks a new chapter for donation and transplantation in our area that would not have been possible without excellent partnership from Research Medical Center,” said Finn. “They were with us every step of the way. Thanks to them, this donor hero’s legacy lives on through four grateful organ recipients and countless more tissue recipients.”

“We are honored to assist Midwest Transplant Network with families experiencing one of the most vulnerable times in anyone’s life,” said Research Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Olevia M. Pitts, MD, SFHM. “Research Medical Center and Midwest Transplant Network have a rich history of working collaboratively for decades. Organ, eye and tissue donations save and heal many lives each year and we recognize, along with Midwest Transplant Network, the tremendous gift of life given by members of our community.”

 

About Midwest Transplant Network

Midwest Transplant Network has been connecting lives through organ donation since 1973. As the federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) for Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri, Midwest Transplant Network provides services including organ procurement; surgical tissue and eye recovery; laboratory testing and 24-hour rapid response for referrals from hospital partners. Midwest Transplant Network ranks in the top 10% in the country among OPOs, which reflects the organization’s quality, professionalism and excellence in partnerships throughout the region. For more information, visit mwtn.org. For more about Midwest Transplant Network’s DCU, visit mwtn.org/dcu.

 

About Research Medical Center 

Research Medical Center—part of HCA Midwest Health, Kansas City’s leading healthcare provider—serves patients by providing quality healthcare services and access to advanced technology. The hospital, located at 2316 East Meyer Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri, is one of the region’s leading acute care hospitals. The 590-bed facility features a broad range of specialized, state-of-the-art services including a Level I Trauma Center and Level 1 Time Critical Diagnosis services for stroke, brain and spinal cord injury, heart attack and sepsis. Research is home to the region’s first accredited stroke center. Other services include the TIA Clinic, Grossman Burn Center, Liver and Pancreas Institute, Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute, 24-hour Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospitalists and Emergency Room, Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Transplant Institute, fertility specialists, Center for the Relief of Pain, orthopedics, sports medicine and much more. In addition, the 25-acre Research Brookside Campus, located at 6601 Rockhill Road in Kansas City, Mo., includes an outpatient surgery center, many specialty physicians and a comprehensive health and fitness center.  Research Medical Center and the Brookside Campus provide 24-hour access to Emergency Services and have many primary care and walk-in care providers who offer preventive and wellness services. For more information about Research Medical Center, visit researchmedicalcenter.com and researchbrookside.com.

 

About HCA Midwest Health 

As the Kansas City area’s leading healthcare provider, HCA Midwest Health consists of seven hospitals and dozens of outpatient centers, clinics, physician practices, surgery centers and an array of other facilities and services to meet area residents’ healthcare needs. HCA Midwest Health is one of the area’s largest private-sector employers, with more than 10,000 employees, and the largest provider of charity and uncompensated care. Each year, we provide nearly $1 million to local charities. Annually, HCA Midwest Health invests capital to enhance and expand patient services and last year paid more than $115 million in taxes, which may go to the improvement of schools, roads, and infrastructure in the communities we serve. HCA Midwest Health facilities include Belton Regional Medical Center, Centerpoint Medical Center, Lafayette Regional Health Center, Lee’s Summit Medical Center, Menorah Medical Center, Overland Park Regional Medical Center, Research Medical Center and Research Psychiatric Center. Midwest Physicians, which is part of HCA Midwest Health, is a network of experienced, multi-specialty physicians located throughout the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area. Currently Midwest Physicians represents 600+ providers. It includes 80+ specialties, providing care in 150+ locations to serve our community. The physicians, licensed professionals and support staff who comprise the HCA Midwest Health team are dedicated to improving healthcare in the Greater Kansas City and outlying areas to create healthier communities that lead to healthier tomorrows. For more information, visit hcamidwest.com.

Portrait image of Doris Agwu

Q&A with MTN Advisory Board Member Doris C. Agwu

Portrait image of Doris Agwu

Doris C. Agwu, MPH

There are countless individuals responsible for making MTN’s lifesaving mission possible: our hospital partners; licensing, treasury and Department of Revenue staff members; funeral home professionals and medical examiners; staff members; Board of Directors; volunteer Ambassadors; and beyond. Today, we’re excited to highlight one of our Advisory Board members, Doris C. Agwu, MPH, regarding her work in diversity, equity and inclusion.


Tell us briefly about the work you do as Assistant Dean for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UMKC School of Medicine.

In my role with senior leadership, I work with recruitment, retention, advancement, engagement, and communications and serve on our important committees and councils. It is important that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is in the framework of everything that we do because it matters in everything. So, from creating and providing DEI training to serving on selection and search committees and everything in between, I work with leadership, faculty, staff and students to ensure our strategic plan is implemented. It is important to us that we create an environment where all students can succeed, which means providing equitable resources and a sense of belonging. Additionally, this needs to be done for faculty and staff. And my office helps to do just that.


How did you come to join Midwest Transplant Network’s Board of Directors? What drew you to the organization?

I have been friends with MTN General Counsel Salama Gallimore for years. When I moved to KC a couple of years ago, she was one of the few people I knew in the area. She has always spoken so fondly about the work you all do at Midwest Transplant Network. And with my role at the school of medicine, she felt that I could bring an important perspective to the board. I researched the organization and was truly impressed and humbled by the beautiful work you all do here and incredibly moved by all the lives you’ve positively impacted. I knew this was the type of board I wanted to join.


August is a time when people in the donation and transplantation community raise awareness to save and enhance the lives of people of all races and ethnicities. (This can be recognized as National Multiethnic Donor Awareness Month.) Why is it important to you to celebrate and educate people on the importance of diversity in donation?

I think education on this is important because there is a lot of misinformation out there. Additionally, there are a lot of people who don’t have access to healthcare or have negative experiences regarding healthcare due to marginalization. I think education on the importance of diversity in donation can help shape minds and create a safer environment for learning about donation. In this world, marginalized individuals understandably can have trust issues with a lot of systems, including systems involved in donation and transplantation, so educating people can help lead to enhanced self-advocacy and understanding.


Have you or any of your loved ones been impacted by organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation? If so, how?

Yes, I have a friend who had been waiting to receive a kidney transplant for years, and when she finally received one, it changed her whole life. She was always a positive and joyful person, but after receiving her kidney, there was a certain type of joy that illuminated from her that probably was rooted in a sense of relief and freedom. Health complications can be very scary for everyone involved, so when a loved one gets exactly what they need to make them healthier, you’re forever grateful.


What would you say to someone who is on the fence about joining the organ, eye and tissue donor registry?

Being a scientist at heart, I don’t believe there is anything I would say, but there are various questions I would ask. I’d ask if they would be willing to share why they are on the fence, what reasons are holding them back, and then I would be able to chat with them effectively and honestly about their concerns.

Sunset photo of the MTN airplane at the KC downtown airport with the skyline behind it.

MTN Aviation

Behind the scenes of organ donation, there are many moving parts that make the gift of life possible. This symphony of motion must come together in near-perfect harmony. One of the often-unseen heroes of the organ donation process within our service area is Midwest Transplant Network’s Aviation team. Ed Coleman, Aviation Manager, manages the transport of lifesaving organs as well as transplant teams from across the country and our service area.

His 38 years of experience in aviation have spanned nearly every realm of the industry. What is different about his service to MTN? It is the organizational mission. In many instances, aviation is not essential to the function of an organization. “In the business realm, if things start to drop, the first thing you do is get rid of the perks,” he said. “This isn’t a perk for us. This is an essential piece of the puzzle to make everyone’s job work.”

Like many MTN staff members, the aviation department operates mostly on an on-call basis. The schedule is demanding, but especially for parents of young children. Corporate Pilot Kelly Timmermann values her work at MTN because it ensures that her “time away from home is worthwhile”. Timmermann, a former executive officer in the A10 Squadron at Whiteman AFB, appreciates the flexibility Coleman and her aviation coworkers provide.

“Ed is usually able to get me all the days off that I need,” Timmermann said. “So, I can feel good when I come to work because things are tidy at home.”

Coleman monitors cases across the MTN service area to give his pilots ample awareness of possible flight calls. “I really appreciate that most of the time, we have a decent idea of [whether] we will be flying or not to kind of mentally prepare,” Timmermann said.

For Timmermann and Coleman, working for MTN is a great way to continue their aviation careers while facilitating the life-saving gift of organ donation. “The mission we have helps people daily,” Timmermann said. “When we go fly, it truly helps somebody. That is very validating for me.”

Now Hiring!

The MTN aviation team is currently hiring both full-time and PRN corporate pilots. If you are a licensed pilot or aviation student looking for mission-driven work for a dynamic and growing organ procurement organization, apply here.

 

Group photo of a family at the Donate Life Legacy Walk in red t-shirts.

2022 Donate Life Legacy Walk Celebrates Gift of Life

On Saturday, June 4, 2022, we celebrated the gift of organ, eye and tissue donation with approximately 1,800 of our community members at the sixth annual Donate Life Legacy Walk. It was an honor to spend a beautiful evening on the lawn of the National WWI Museum and Memorial. We celebrated the evening alongside our incredible donation community including donor families, recipients, living donors and community advocates.

The Tribute Trail lined the north walk of the lawn overlooking Union Station. The Trail was introduced in 2021 and gives families a chance to honor their loved one or personal donor hero while reflecting on the selfless gifts made by all donor heroes.

As the sun descended, participants could take in the view of the Kansas City skyline lit green, thanks to our friends at Union Station and the Downtown Council of Kansas City. The event featured live music from Funk Syndicate and numerous dinner options from our many local food truck partners.

Our community is filled with vibrant individuals with beautiful stories to share. We are continually grateful to be a source of comfort and connection for those who have been touched by the gift of donation and transplantation. Every year we are so humbled by the people we have the honor to work with and serve.

Thank you to this year’s walk participants, vendors, volunteers and staff. We look forward to seeing you all again next year.

Group photo of a family at the Donate Life Legacy Walk wearing yellow t-shirts.

Photo of two little girls wearing Give Hope, Share Life capes.

 

Reflecting on 2022 National Donate Life Month

During National Donate Life Month, MTN staff brought light and awareness to the legacy of donor heroes and the need for organ, eye and tissue donors. In all the month’s festivities, the MTN community honored the strength and hope offered through the donation and transplantation journey.

 

MTN remains thankful for the support of our mission and collaboration in saving and enhancing lives in our service area. We are honored to work with our hospital and community partners, donor families and recipients who work tirelessly to educate the community on the importance of donation. Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s National Donate Life Month!

Group photo of Human Resources department

MTN Human Resources

Every day, staff members at Midwest Transplant Network perform lifesaving and life-enhancing work. Some serve our mission in a face-to-face capacity while others are more behind the scenes. The Human Resources Department at MTN works hard to hire and retain mission-driven individuals who are dedicated to saving lives with dignity and compassion through organ, eye and tissue donation. We talked with HR Generalist Alex McClanahan about what her job entails and why she loves the culture of MTN. Watch this department highlight then find out how you can join our organization by checking out the available positions on the Careers page on our website.

Graphic design logo image for Songs From the Heart.

The Ultimate Gift of Life

Graphic design image for Songs From the Heart

Every year, MTN and 90.9 FM The Bridge collaborate to give families of donor heroes the opportunity to share their loved ones’ stories and for donation advocates to discuss why organ, eye and tissue donation is important to them.

Everyone knows Feb. 14 as Valentine’s Day, a day to share love and sweet sentiments. But it is also National Donor Day. It is a day to appreciate donors and loved ones who have given the gift of life, have received a donation, are currently waiting or did not receive an organ in time.

It is no coincidence that a day synonymous with love coincides with a day to commemorate those who have given the ultimate gift of love.

Here are a few words about this year’s featured donor heroes, from the people who love them most.


Photo image of Isaiah RossIsaiah “Zay” Ross

“When we received the letters informing us that individuals had received his organs there was a calmness in my spirit,” said Allena Ross, Isaiah’s mother. “It let me know that my son continues to live on and we are intentionally keeping his name alive.”


Photo image of Josh BirrellJosh Birrell

“One of the neatest things is seeing all the people that came forward that we never met whose lives Josh had touched. I don’t know how to explain it except that he was almost like a light for a lot of people, including me, and I know I’m a better person because of him,” said Josh’s dad, Jon Birrell.

Read more about Josh in our story here.


Photo image of Christopher Hutson JrChristopher Hutson Jr

“Chris was nothing but love. He still is a very important part of our life. He just wanted to be with family, to love one another and be loved,” said Christopher Hutson Sr., Christopher’s father.

Read more about Christopher in our story here.


Photo image of Michele BaumgardnerMichele Baumgardner

“You want to do the right thing by your loved one; you want to honor their wishes; you want to do something for them,” said Michele’s daughter, Monica Umlauf. “She was only 55 years old. So, I felt that it was really important to really give her one last thing that she really would have wanted.”


Photo image of Dr. Michael MoncureMichael Moncure, MD, FACS

“If you’ve ever had a loved one who’s undergone an organ transplant, you see someone’s life transformed into something that’s a good quality of life. That is irreplaceable. I’ve seen a lot of organ transplantation and it is a miracle,” said Dr. Michael Moncure, Professor and Vice Chair of Surgery, UMKC; Assistant Director of Surgery, University Health; and Medical Director, MTN.


Photo image of Stephanie MeyerStephanie Meyer

“A good friend from high school had posted that my recipient had polycystic kidney disease and had been added to the [transplant waiting] list. I saw this post on the anniversary of my father’s passing. Every year I try to do something to pay it forward and do something in memory of him, said Stephanie Meyer, a living kidney donor. “So, to me, that was like the perfect God wink, like, this is what you’re supposed to do.”

Listen to interviews from these donor families and donation advocates here.

2021 EOY metrics

2021: Maximizing the Gift of Life

Midwest Transplant Network continued saving and enhancing more lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in 2021. Our staff members and partners worked diligently to enhance donation processes, maximizing the gift of life our donor heroes generously chose to share.

The light of hope shines brighter than ever, thanks to everyone who advocates for and supports donation.

2021 EOY metrics

 

In 2021, we were inspired by glimmers of hope: hope that past challenges create future opportunities; hope that the journey leads us exactly where we need to go. This past year demonstrated the strength of our mission and the extraordinary qualities of those who serve it. Join us in reflecting on the gift of life offered through organ, eye and tissue donation.

 

 

Ornament with tag

Bringing Light to a Sometimes-Bittersweet Season

Ornament with tag

The holidays can evoke memories of time spent with loved ones and family traditions. This time of year can be particularly difficult for those who have lost loved ones, including families and friends of all donor heroes.

Toward the end of each calendar year, amid many holidays, Midwest Transplant Network hosts Hope for the Holidays, a time to remember donor heroes and celebrate the gift of life. This year, families will be treated to a special screening of the holiday movie “Elf” in Kansas City’s historic Union Station.

“Hope for the Holidays is a chance for families of our donor heroes to come together in remembrance and celebration during what can be a very difficult time of the year,” said Donor Family Services Coordinator Denise Cooper. “We are honored and humbled to spend time with donor families each holiday season.”

Donor families will bring an ornament to honor their loved one that will hang on an MTN-branded holiday tree complete with presents underneath sporting “Give Hope. Share Life.” wrapping paper. Union Station guests from all over the country can see the tree near the movie theater concession area through Monday, Jan. 3. Along with enjoying the beautiful tree, they will have a chance to join the national organ, eye and tissue donor registry at registerme.org/hopefortheholidays and share hope this holiday season with the 100,000 individuals waiting for lifesaving and life-enhancing transplants.

From everyone at MTN, we wish you a peaceful holiday season.

Hope for the HolidaysHope for the Holidays