Tag Archive for: organ donation

Scot Pollard’s Transplant Journey: A Big Heart for a Big Legend

A tall man in a hospital room, wearing a hospital gown and standing with a walker.

Scot Pollard stands with a walker in a hospital room during his care as he underwent a heart transplant. Photo provided by the Pollard family.

At 6’11”, Scot Pollard’s size has often been credited as a gift, propelling him into an 11-year NBA career following his legendary time with the Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team, during which he helped Kansas reach the NCAA Sweet 16 four seasons in a row.

In 2021, Pollard’s heart health began to rapidly decline due to a hereditary condition exacerbated by a contracted virus. It eventually became apparent that most medical solutions would not be enough. He needed a new heart, and more than that, he needed a really big one.

The respective body size of an organ donor and a registered transplant candidate are factors in determining whether a successful transplant is possible – especially for a heart. In the case of someone as large as Pollard, the odds of finding a match are lower.

“It’s not like being tall is a curse. It’s not. It’s still a blessing. But, I have known my entire life that there’s a good chance I wasn’t going to get old,” said Pollard in an interview with the Associated Press. “And so it gives you a different perspective on how you live your life and how you treat people and all that kind of stuff.”

Pollard and his wife, Dawn, revealed his condition on social media in January. They went on to post updates and participate in news interviews to share his progress, which in turn raised national awareness for the complexities surrounding organ transplantation and the importance of organ donation.

He underwent a successful heart transplant surgery on Feb. 16, after which he “immediately felt better.” Just 13 days later, he strutted out of the hospital to a chorus of applause.

Through this journey, Pollard has learned about the lifesaving gift of organ donation, and even hopes to one day connect with the family of his donor hero. “I would love to show them this heart isn’t going to waste.” Every donor hero can save up to eight lives, and Pollard hopes that by educating his friends, neighbors and fans, he can contribute to this life-saving work. “I’m going to annoy people with becoming a donor. That’s going to be a project for the rest of my life,” he said.

In honor of National Donate Life Month, Midwest Transplant Network is proud to recognize Scot Pollard as a Green Ribbon Champion for his openness about his transplant journey and advocacy for organ donation. Green Ribbon Champions are individuals who are passionate about increasing the number of registered organ donors in their communities, understanding that a simple “yes” can help give hope and share life to the thousands in need of life-saving organ transplants.

Midwest Transplant Network invites you to consider joining your state’s organ donor registry and encourage others to do the same. Learn more about the types of donation, including the option to be a living donor, and the incredibly positive emotional experiences of organ donor families and transplant recipients.

Join the organ, eye and tissue donor registry in Kansas and Missouri at ShareLifeMidwest.com or join the national donor registry at RegisterMe.org.

An Air Force pilot sitting in the cockpit of a military aircraft.

MTN Staff Spotlight – Kelly Timmermann

An Air Force pilot sitting in the cockpit of a military aircraft.

Kelly Timmermann can fly. She’s a Corporate Pilot PIC I for Midwest Transplant Network. Her career began as an Air Force pilot and she retired as Lt. Col. Timmermann in late 2023.

March is Women’s History Month, designated by presidential proclamation in 1980. Now, Women’s History Month is an annual observance to highlight the achievements, contributions, influence and impact of women.

Midwest Transplant Network recognizes and celebrates the diversity of our staff. We appreciate sharing the stories of staff who represent different experiences that positively impact our culture and mission.

Kelly Timmermann, Corporate Pilot PIC I

Kelly Timmermann can fly. From the Air Force to Midwest Transplant Network, her career as a pilot has taken her around the world and across the country. In late 2023, Lt. Col. Timmermann retired from the Air Force after 23 years as a pilot, having experienced 13 deployments and 1,940 combat hours. She joined MTN in 2022 as a Corporate Pilot PIC I, responsible for transporting teams to cases in the mission of saving and enhancing lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.

In 50 words or less, explain your job in the Air Force like you’re talking to someone without a military background.

I began my Air Force journey as an intelligence analyst. After two years, I switched my career path to become a pilot. I primarily flew an air refueling airplane, the KC-135. But I also had the opportunity to fly distinguished passengers in the Gulfstream IV and Gulfstream V aircraft, with many leadership roles along the way.

What influence did female mentors, role models or colleagues have on your military service, education or life in general?

Most of my superiors, mentors and colleagues were men. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities and leadership over the years. But you asked about women, and my very best friendships have been amazing women – family, Air Force friends, and high school friends. I’ve had a solid support network, sounding board, and sometimes a good kick in the pants (when warranted) from my ladies. Having someone invest in your success whole-heartedly is validating and empowering. I owe my success to those who believed in me.

March is Women’s History Month. What does it mean to you to have had a successful career as a pilot in the Air Force?

I am proud that I was able to choose a path in the Air Force that allowed me both professional and personal progression. Professionals of all backgrounds face difficult decisions to balance family and work-life. Women have the added consideration of bearing children. Choosing to be an Air Force pilot was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I knew it would mean frequent travel and moving, and I knew it was possible I would do it alone. It’s tough to meet people when you’re not in a place that’s home. I’m a little amazed and grateful that I was able to navigate a career, have a family and meet my goals as a pilot, but I did it!

What motivated you to become a pilot? What kept you motivated?

I didn’t consider a pilot career until I was in the Air Force. I knew it was a marketable skill and I was fascinated to find a professional path that would give me an office in an airplane! I’ve always been aware of long-term stability and choosing a job was another item for consideration. There is a huge need for pilots, and that equates to long-term stability. As for motivation, that’s the only way I know how to do things…to be motivated.

Where’d you train to become a pilot?

I trained for my private pilot’s license at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. My Air Force Undergraduate Pilot training was at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas.

What’s your advice to women who want to pursue aviation?

Make it happen. If you are willing to work for it, it is achievable!

If your career imitated a movie, which movie would it be?

I couldn’t find one about determination and persistence without a heartbreaking tragedy to overcome. Haha!

If you hadn’t become a pilot, what would you have done for your career?

I do not know! I narrowed it down to psychology and counseling but was also interested in the medical field. See? Varied interests make it tough to decide, so why not fly?

A mother and two children gather around a cake with a sparkling candle.

Kelly Timmermann and her children are smiling in excitement at a sparkling candle in the center of a small cake.

Now that you’ve retired from the Air Force, do you have a retirement bucket list? What’s one thing you’d share from your list?

My husband is still in the Air Force, so we will make a bucket list when it is his time to retire. However, the short-term benefit is I only have one job, instead of a second job with the Air Force Reserve, and I spend the extra time with my two awesome kiddos.


From your perspective, how does your role at Midwest Transplant Network impact organ donation and transplantation?

We give MTN the ability to have someone spend an hour of travel instead of four hours of travel at the beginning and the end of a 24-hour shift. This is essential! I feel directly connected to perpetuating this awesome mission because the airplane helps lower attrition. Additionally, being able to take a team to an OR and then bring them home cuts a lot of stress and work from logistics planning. I know our staff are appreciative when the airplane is available to relieve the burden of travel and we are happy to be part of the mission.


What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about organ donation?

I was not familiar with organ donation at all, except that you’re asked the question at the DMV about becoming an organ donor. Learning about the process has helped me to stress to my family and friends how important it is to make your decision known for organ donation. It makes a difference and alleviates family stress when the worst happens.


Where are you from?

Salisbury, Missouri.


It’s March Madness! You’re hosting a Women’s Final Four Championship party. What snacks are you serving?

I’m serving hot wings, guac and chips, pizza, and everybody brings a favorite. Sharing is caring!

A large U.S. Air Force plane.

Kelly Timmermann poses in front of a U.S. Air Force plane.

A woman wearing a black ball cap that reads Afghanistan Veteran.

Lt. Col. Kelly Timmermann retired from the U.S. Air Force after a 23-year career as a pilot.

Rev. Isaac Ruffin, an African American male, wearing a colorful scarf representing Black heritage, standing in front of an art display of glass plates in various shades of primary colors.

Celebrating Black History Month: Rev. Isaac Ruffin

Rev. Isaac Ruffin, an African American male, wearing a colorful scarf representing Black heritage, standing in front of an art display of glass plates in various shades of primary colors

Rev. Isaac Ruffin, a Family Services Coordinator II at Midwest Transplant Network, shares his perspective in honor of Black History Month.

For more than 19 years, the Rev. Isaac Ruffin, Family Services Coordinator II, has served Midwest Transplant Network (MTN) donor families with all of his heart and soul. He has a passion for walking alongside families who are experiencing an unexpected loss and offering comfort, lending a kind and listening ear, and sharing how donation can help extend their loved one’s legacy.

“For my generation, with all of the history we have seen, Black History Month is a celebration of the coming to fruition of a people,” shared Ruffin. “It is a time to be seen as equals and fulfill our dreams, hopes, aspirations and our true potential.”

He’s inspired by his grandfathers – one a pastor and the other a deacon. Through their ministry, they served congregations, raised large families and were role models of compassion and integrity.

While completing his Clinical Pastoral Education at Research Medical Center, Ruffin had the opportunity to work with MTN as a hospital chaplain in caring for several donor families. He was very aware of some of the cultural concerns about organ donation within the Black American community. “I want to serve others and build trust with underserved and diverse communities as a face within one of those cultures myself.”

He understands the impact donation can have on an individual, a family and a community as his brother received the gift of a transplant many, many years ago. His work with donor families has always been about giving back as a part of his personal ministry and for the gift his brother and their family received.

Known for his quiet, infinite readiness to serve others, Rev. Ruffin finds peace in creating memories of donor heroes with their families. Over his almost two decades of service, countless families have experienced the love he brings when supporting them in making the generous decision to donate life on their most difficult day. He has built many bridges of trust – one family at a time – significantly impacting and bettering our community. MTN is eternally grateful for Rev. Ruffin as his joyful presence has made the same profound difference in every one of us.

In recognition of Black History Month, Rev. Ruffin shares his favorite poem, “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou.

MTN logo

Midwest Transplant Network surpasses expectations to save and enhance lives in 2023

One organ donor can save eight lives; a tissue donor can enhance 100 lives.

In 2023, Midwest Transplant Network set a new level of achievement for the number of organs recovered for transplantation, organ donors, eye and tissue donors, and laboratory tests performed as part of organ, eye and tissue donation.

MTN, a not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO), achieved 988 lifesaving organs for transplantation. The gifts came from 363 donor heroes. MTN also recovered gifts of eye and tissue from 1,399 donors.

“What we achieved at Midwest Transplant Network in 2023 reflects the commitment of the staff who do the work every day to support organ donation and transplantation. The work is hard, and happens in countless ways, but we are all dedicated to the mission of enhancing and saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation” said Jan Finn, RN, MSN, President & CEO, Midwest Transplant Network.

MTN’s award-winning histocompatibility lab performed 36,224 tests assessing blood work for potential matches for organ, tissue and bone marrow transplantation, as well as post-transplant monitoring.

“MTN’s professional laboratory staff performs thousands of tests in support of organ transplants for patients in our community, as well as patients across the country. Each year, the laboratory’s service grows as we continue to provide exceptional quality and expert consultation services 24/7 to transplant centers,” said Christina Bishop, MT(ASCP), Ph.D., F(ACHI), Chief of Laboratory Services.


An Upward Trend

MTN’s performance metric increases reflect a national upward trend for the organ transplant system.

The United Network for Organ Sharing reported that across the country, clinical workers performed more than 46,000 lifesaving transplants in 2023.

Although organ transplants are increasing nationally and locally, the waiting list grows. More than 100,000 people around the country need a lifesaving organ transplant — with approximately 460 of those people living in Kansas and 2,000 in Missouri.

2023: A Significant Year for Saving Lives
Through MTN, the generosity of donor heroes and their families touched the lives of people in need:

  • 363 donor heroes shared the gift of life, resulting in 988* lifesaving organ transplants.
    (*Excluding organs donated for research)
  • 1,399 cornea and tissue donor heroes saved and enhanced lives.
  • MTN’s lab performed 36,224 transplant-supporting tests ranging from blood counts, urinalysis, basic chemistry panels and more.
  • In its first full year of service, MTN’s Donor Recovery and Surgical Unit (DCU) cared for 114 donor hero patients resulting in 364 lifesaving transplants.

“The DCU allows us to continue specialized care for donor hero patients while maximizing their gifts of donation. The DCU also enables us to support our hospital partners by freeing up resources such as intensive care unit beds, operating rooms and medical staff needed to care for donor patients,” said Lori Markham, RN, MSN, CCRN, Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer.

At a Glance

Incorporated in 1973, Midwest Transplant Network facilitates organ, eye and tissue donation in partnership with hospitals and other professional partners to give hope and share life. MTN’s service area is the state of Kansas and western two-thirds of Missouri, with its central office located in Westwood, Kansas, and satellite offices in Wichita, Kansas, and Columbia and Joplin, Missouri. MTN commemorated 50 years of service in 2023.


A headshot of Taylor Brookins.

MTN Staff Spotlight — Taylor Brookins

Portrait image of Taylor Brookins

Taylor Brookins

Midwest Transplant Network is a co-sponsor of the OneLegacy Donate Life Rose Parade® float, which will be featured in the 2024 Rose Parade®. The OneLegacy Donate Life float honors the memory of donor heroes from across the country, including Jayme Sue Louque of Olathe, Kansas, a 14-year-old organ, eye and tissue donor. The float features a floragraph portrait of Jayme Sue made of organic materials.

MTN chooses a staff member to travel with the donor family to the Rose Parade® and we want to take a moment to share the connection and invite you to watch the 2024 Rose Parade® on Jan. 1 at 8 a.m. PST/10 a.m. CST on ABC, NBC or Univision.


MTN Staff Spotlight…

Taylor Brookins, LCSW, Manager, Family Services

Taylor’s professional career as a medical social worker includes experience in hospice, in-patient palliative care, pediatric intensive care, and end-of-life care. She has a Master of Social Work from the University of Kansas and is a licensed clinical social worker. She joined Midwest Transplant Network in April 2021 as a Family Services Coordinator and transitioned to her current role in April 2022. Taylor will accompany Wendy and Bryan Louque and their family to the 2024 Rose Parade® in honor of their daughter, Jayme Sue, who became a donor hero at age 14.

Explain your job as if you’re talking to a stranger in Target.

“I’d explain what MTN does as a whole, and I’d say that I work with donor heroes and donor families, and we walk families through the process of organ and tissue transplantation.

“I usually explain that I used to go into different hospitals and worked directly with families, and now I’ve transitioned into a manager role, and I support Family Services Coordinators who work with donor families in the hospitals.”

Did you have any hesitation about accepting the opportunity to support the Louque family? Why or why not?

“No hesitation. I was really excited! It’s an honor and I’m thankful to get to go. I know how important this is for the family and it’s truly an honor.”


What’s your connection to the Louque family?

“The Louque family brought up donation very early on during Jayme Sue’s hospitalization. They’re a giving family. I was the Family Services Coordinator who met with the family and supported them during the donation process. That was November 2021. I couldn’t believe it’s been two years. It doesn’t feel like it.”


Tell us three things you’re looking forward to about the Rose Parade experience.

“Being around donor families at the Rose Parade; in the work we do, we see families on their worst day, and the parade is a way to see the families celebrating loved ones.

“I’m looking forward to going with the family to decorate and put the finishing touches on the parade float, and mostly, I’m looking forward to being able to honor Jayme Sue and her family.

“The Louques are a very deserving donor family. They’re so passionate about donation because they’ve experienced it on both sides. Wendy is a living donor, and Bryan is a two-time kidney recipient – one from his wife, and from a deceased donor.”

What’s your favorite holiday memory?

“We always celebrated Christmas at my great grandma’s house in Wyoming, and she lived in a log home that my family actually built. It’s the epitome of a Christmas home. My great grandma and uncle decorated it every Christmas. It was super cozy, and my brother and cousins…we always spent that time together.

“My favorite memory is that my uncle dressed up as Santa Claus – we didn’t know it was him at the time – and they made the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof, and we could see Santa’s legs dangling in the window as he was getting ready to go to the chimney. The next morning, when we woke up, Santa had taken pictures of him drinking milk and eating cookies and left us notes…just such a special memory to know the lengths my family took to make Christmas special for us.”

What’s your favorite holiday side dish and your least favorite – as in you will not eat it?

“My favorite is definitely mashed potatoes, but I do mix corn with my mashed potatoes, so it’s like a dual side dish. The side dish I won’t eat is stuffing. I just don’t like stuffing. I never have and I never eat it.”

What’s your most memorable gift from when you were a kid?

“Oh my gosh…I can’t remember a gift, but I remember the feeling of being at my great grandma’s with my cousins. My family would make so much food, and my great grandma would make iced sugar cookies that were my favorite. And there would be so many desserts and pies…that’s what I remember.”

What’s your motivation to keep doing the work you do every day?

“When you’re a medical social worker, your motivation is to make a difference and to help people. In the roles I’ve had, there is not a lot of hope. But at MTN, everyone who works here makes a difference every day and saves lives. We get to witness family selflessness, and we get to offer hope on someone’s worst day. This is the best place to work and it’s an honor to do what we do.”

Is there anything you’d like to share that could offer a different perspective about organ donation?

“Something that I learned from Drew [Toler] is that donation doesn’t take away a family’s grief, but it provides peace and comfort on their grief journey. When someone is able to become a donor hero, they live on through others, and that can be comforting to a family.”

MTN Aviation: Serving the Mission through Flight

The grrrrrrrrr of a small plane speeding down a runway for takeoff; a shrill whistle and the clack, clack, clack of a freight train rolling down the tracks in the near distance; the whirling, choppy sound of an aircraft unseen.

These are the sounds of the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City on a Wednesday morning, but the office of Midwest Transplant Network’s Aviation department is quiet. Inside the hangar, a plane sits at the ready to serve the mission of organ donation.

It’s 9 a.m. MTN Pilots Tom Carnahan and Tim Overman greet Genny Ly, a new Organ Procurement Coordinator, to show her the plane – an orientation to prepare for the moment she’ll be on a team that flies out for an organ recovery case.

Carnahan demonstrates how to open and close the door to board the plane, safety features inside the cabin, how to open the emergency exit and more. Walking around the plane, Carnahan points out areas along the wings to be careful; at the rear of the plane, he opens a small compartment revealing a cargo space for bags and equipment.

The plane, a Citation C3J+, has two seats in the front for pilots and eight seats in back. Most are window seats.

After touring the plane and the office, Overman and Carnahan chat with Ly before she goes to MTN’s headquarters to continue the day.


Mission Critical

“We are the only OPO in the country that owns and operates its aircraft. There are a few others who have a dedicated aircraft; however, they are managed by a charter service or other outside agency. The pilots and staff who work in MTN’s Aviation department are actual employees of MTN. MTN as an organization is also registered with the FAA as Part 91,” explained Lori Markham, RN, MSN, CCRN, Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer, MTN.

“Midwest Transplant Network is the sixth largest OPO by geography. With our aircraft, we’re able to respond quickly to donor hospitals anywhere in our service area. Because we can mobilize quickly, we are able to support our hospital partners, donor families and recover organs efficiently to maximize the gifts. Forty percent of overall donor patients are outside of the Kansas City metro, so having our own plane and pilots are critical.

“Otherwise, we’d rely on ground transportation – which could take hours – or we’d have to rely on charter or plane services that may not be readily available when needed.”


Being an MTN Pilot

Overman and Carnahan are two of nine pilots at MTN. It’s a fully staffed department, and both agree that having a full team makes a difference in work-life balance.

“It helps to be able to share the workload. We can make connections with each other, talk through needs, and it also means that the team can provide MTN full service.”

There are always two pilots on flights to transport a team and bring them back to Kansas City. The pilots know there is a time sensitivity with organs. The flight prep to get ready for a case includes weather and radars, wind speed and visibility, weight and balance for the plane to operate safely, filing a flight plan, determining alternate airports in case they can’t reach the actual destination and more.

Modern technology has made a difference in simplifying flight plans. “There were a lot of phone calls back in the day. Now we have GPS, digital apps and other tools, including the phone.”

Lemoine Davis, MBA, PMP, Manager, Aviation, leads the department.

“The MTN Aviation mission is ‘To provide safe, professional and efficient air transportation in response to MTN needs.’ Without the department, we would be strained to service our region as timelines to respond would be significantly increased or the cost to operate would increase as charters and ground transportation would be our only options.

“The training the pilots undergo regarding organ donation is informational, not technical. We provide a broad overview of the donation process and expand upon the areas they can, or might, influence. It gives the Aviation team an understanding of the importance of their role, the hazards associated with their cargo, and a general overview of how the aircraft is utilized,” said Davis.


Flexible and Responsive

Each day is different for staff at MTN, including pilots.

“A typical workday for our pilots includes coming on shift, either morning or evening, and waiting to be activated to fly within our service area. If during their shift they are not called out to fly, they could be fulfilling administrative duties or volunteering for an event within the organization. Our pilots are not required to work from the hangar as long as they can adhere to the two-hour callout timeline,” said Davis.

“The team who flies on the aircraft when transporting an organ can vary. Typically, we are flying the organ procurement team that includes an organ procurement coordinator, organ procurement preservation specialist, an organ procurement technician and/or family services staff.”

He described a recent fly-out to Joplin, Missouri, for a recovery.

“The pilots on shift flew the team out in the evening, waited on the ground for a few hours while the procedure took place, and later returned to Kansas City with the team who’d successfully recovered organs. They also brought back two additional passengers whose shift had ended.

“Overall, this took roughly four hours, which would’ve been significantly longer if they had to travel by car, or it would’ve cost more if MTN had to use charter services.”


MTN Aviation Fast Facts

1973 – Midwest Organ Bank created an in-house Aviation department at the urging of the Federal Aviation Administration to “ensure the safety of staff members and transplantable organs.”

2023 – Midwest Transplant Network is marking 50 years of Aviation and is the only organ procurement organization in the U.S. that owns and operates an aircraft. MTN staff can mobilize quickly to anywhere within the service area to support hospital partners and recover organs to maximize the gift of life.

  • Number of pilots: Five full-time and four part-time pilots
  • Range of experience: 8-48 years
  • Average experience: 20 years
  • Aviation career experience: military, private charter, private company, medical evacuation, regional airlines, flying bush planes in Alaska, or flying retired military aircraft.
  • Flight hours: Approximately 7.5 hours a week or 30 hours per month.
  • MTN service area: 150,000 sq miles covering the state of Kansas and western Missouri


A man standing next to the open door of a plane and talking to a woman.

Tom Carnahan, MTN pilot, and Genny Ly, organ procurement coordinator, stand outside the door of MTN’s aircraft during an orientation. The hangar door is open to a view of the downtown Kansas City skyline.

A small aircraft in an airplane hangar.

MTN’s airplane in the hangar, ready and waiting for its next flyout.

A pilot sits at the controls of a small plane.

Tim Overman, MTN pilot, sits at the controls of the plane to show the various screens of radar and other details necessary while flying a plane.

Pilots standing in formation in front of a plane owned by Midwest Transplant Network.

Midwest Transplant Network pilots in front of the MTN plane at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri.

MTN logo

Partner Spotlight — Lisa Miller, Jackson County, Kansas, Treasurer’s Office

Midwest Transplant Network partners with licensing, treasury and Department of Revenue offices in Kansas and western Missouri to grow the organ, eye and tissue donor registry. We spoke with Lisa Miller, Deputy Treasurer of the Jackson County, Kansas, Treasurer’s Office about why donation is so important to her.

Jackson County, Kansas Deputy Treasurer Lisa Miller

Jackson County, Kansas, Deputy Treasurer Lisa Miller

How does your specific office help inform and educate patrons on the importance of joining the donor registry?

We display all of the items that are provided by MTN and also participate in the promotions for National Donate Life Month and National DMV Appreciation Month with a display in our office.

We have in the past had our pictures of our displays in the local newspaper.

Why do you feel your office’s efforts to promote the need for organ, eye and tissue donors are so important?

Our office has a personal connection to organ donation. We have two employees with relatives who are recipients of organ donation and one employee who is a living donor.

Tell us about your connection to organ, eye and tissue donation.

In April 2004, my husband became ill and ended up in the hospital with an infection. After many doctor’s appointments and several years later, he ended up in the hospital and was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Our belief is that the infection had attacked his heart. His cardiologist referred us to the Saint Luke’s transplant program. After spending the first half of 2014 in and out of the hospital, he was finally added to the transplant waitlist in July. He entered the hospital in October and received his heart in December. Since, he has been able to see two of his children get married and is enjoying his four grandchildren and hunting with his sons.

What is the biggest misconception you hear about donation in your personal and/or professional life?

That the medical professionals will not provide the care needed to save a life if they know that the individual is a donor.

If there is one thing you would want to share with others about the importance of joining the donor registry, what would it be?

It truly is a gift of life.

MTN logo

Partner Spotlight — Linda Gerhardt, Jackson County, Kansas, Treasurer’s Office

As National DMV Appreciation Month comes to a close, Jackson County, Kansas, Treasurer Linda Gerhardt told us why organ, eye and tissue donation is personal to her.

Jackson County, Kansas, Treasurer Linda Gerhardt

Living donor and Jackson County, Kansas, Treasurer Linda Gerhardt

Mine is the story of a living kidney donor. My niece was diagnosed with diabetes when she was in high school. Her mother was diabetic, so she had inherited it. A few years after my niece got out of high school, she was continually sick and in and out of the hospital. She was on dialysis, and she did the dialysis at home at night and went to work during the day. She was a very hardworking, self-supporting young woman. The day came that she was told she needed a kidney transplant. She was put on the transplant waitlist and was told that could take quite a while.

As time went on, my niece became sicker; she was in and out of the hospital, and we worried she might not receive a kidney in time. One day I was at my mother’s, and she said to me, “If something were to happen to me, could Melody get one of my kidneys?” It suddenly opened my eyes. I told my sister of the conversation, and she said that she herself had asked the doctor about donating, and they had told her no because of a medical condition. I had never even given it a thought as a possibility. I was 39 years old and married with two boys. We were her dad’s sisters, so there was a chance we could match. Her parents were both deceased, and none of her brothers or sisters matched or for health reasons couldn’t donate. I suddenly realized this was something I could do.

I then started the process. I was an 80% match to Melody, and they told me that her dad and I probably would have been a perfect match. I had never been a person to go to the doctor unless I had to (kind of like not wanting to go to the dentist), but at the point of finding out I could help her, it was like God was leading my way. I had to monitor my blood pressure; I would go to the health department so they could record it for me. It would be high, and the nurse would say, “Let’s just visit for a while,” and then it would be fine. I passed all the tests.

We checked in at The University of Kansas Medical Center to do the surgery, and preliminary tests showed my niece had an infection, so it was put off for a month. The next time, we were good to go. My priest at church had announced to the congregation to pray for me and gave me a special blessing. It was all like it was meant to be.

On June 25, 2023, we marked 25 years since the transplant. I received the prettiest bouquet of flowers from her. Being an organ donor was never something I had considered, but knowing I could possibly save her life was such a good feeling. I never saw a bill for anything; it all went through my niece’s insurance.

When I was an organ donor, I did not work in the treasurer’s/driver’s license office. Now, I do, and I am honored to help inform people about and promote organ donation. It is amazing how surrounded we have been by organ donation in the courthouse. We’ve had a coworker’s husband receive a heart transplant and a coworker’s brother receive a kidney/pancreas transplant. And in the Register of Deeds office, a worker’s granddaughter received a lung transplant. On the third floor of the courthouse, a judge received a heart transplant, and a past employee’s husband received a kidney from his daughter. In some of these cases, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be here today if not for others’ generous donations.

We always participate in whatever we can to promote organ donation at our office. No one knows when they might be the next one to have a loved one suffering from an illness they never expected, whose life depends on your decision or someone else’s. If you have ever been faced with someone you know needing an organ transplant, you would know how important it is to be on the donor registry. Please think about organ donation.

Our thanks to Linda Gerhardt for writing this guest blog post.

MTN logo

Partner Spotlight — Stefanie Dotson, Maryville Licensing Bureau

In honor of National DMV Appreciation Month, we asked Assistant Manager Stefanie Dotson of the Maryville (Missouri) Licensing Bureau about her important role in the donation process. She also shared her personal ties to organ, eye and tissue donation in this Q&A.

Stefanie Dotson with her nephew, donor hero Aiden Jones

Maryville Licensing Bureau Assistant Manager Stefanie Dotson (left) with her nephew, donor hero Aiden

Q: Tell us a bit about the role the DMV plays in organ, eye and tissue donation.

A: As a DMV worker, any time I issue a permit or driver’s license, we ask if they would like to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. I have found that many people are unaware of the program and have no knowledge of the benefits. At that time, I am able to inform them with the facts and use my personal experiences so they can make the right decision for them.


Q: Tell us about your connection to organ, eye and/or tissue donation.

A: I have several connections to the organ, eye and tissue donation program. I have a friend who has received two kidneys, and I’m happy to report she’s doing great. My mother-in-law had three kinds of cancer, and my husband was still able to donate her corneas when she passed. The one most dear to my heart is my organ donor hero nephew. He was 16 years old when tragedy struck, and we found ourselves devastated by the news he would not be going home with us. I looked at my sister and said, “You know what the next question is, right?” She said, “No, what?” I said, “Do you want to donate his organs?” She took a bit to talk it over and decided she would. The honor walk was amazing. My sister has since received letters from some of the recipients, which have been amazing to read.


Q: How does your specific office help inform and educate patrons on the importance of joining the donor registry?

A: Our office always tries to find fun ways to open up the conversation about being a donor. We like to participate in any decorating contests that are available, we have different displays with facts about being a donor and we include the people we know are recipients or have become a donor hero in our display. Around the holidays, we decorate a tree with the donation colors and add bracelets for the public.


Q: Why do you feel your office’s efforts to promote the need for organ, eye and tissue donors are so important?

A: I feel it is important to inform people of the facts about being a donor. There are lots of misconceptions out there about the details that scare people away. When people are informed with facts, it’s easier for them to make the decision to be an organ donor.


Q: What is the biggest misconception you hear about donation that you hear in your personal and/or professional life?

A: The biggest misconception I hear is: “I was told I can’t donate my organs by this doctor because of this.”

My mother-in-law’s corneas were still used even though she had three different cancers.


Q: If there is one thing you’d want to share with others about the importance of joining the donor registry, what would it be?

A: I just would like people to realize how life-changing it is to be a recipient of an organ. Your loved one gets to live on and is celebrated by people you never knew existed because they are a part of your loved one, with them every day.

MTN logo

Celebrating One Year of a World-Class Donor Care and Surgical Recovery Unit

One year ago — Sept. 1, 2022 — Midwest Transplant Network (MTN) opened its new Donor Care and Surgical Recovery Unit (DCU) after years of careful planning, preparation and training on the processes and technology associated with an in-house facility. Since then, with support from many hospital, professional and community partners, we have cared for 131 donor patients[1] from 29 area hospitals in our world-class DCU. These donor heroes provided 415 lifesaving organs to those who desperately waited for a second chance.

The DCU features a seven-bed onsite intensive care unit, two state-of-the-art operating rooms, a CT scanner with technology to conference remotely with physicians, a specialty laboratory and a family support lounge for donor heroes’ loved ones to gather if desired. Patients who meet certain clinical criteria may be eligible to move to the DCU, where MTN staff members continue administering high-level critical care until surgical teams begin organ recovery.

“It’s hard to believe we have already been providing expert care to donor heroes in our DCU for a year,” said Lori Markham, RN, MSN, CCRN-K, CPTC, MTN Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer. “We had a vision to create a specialized facility in-house for many years, and seeing it come to fruition has been so powerful. I am incredibly proud of our team for all their hard work, and I am grateful for all our partners that have come together to support this new process that allows for better outcomes.”

Since the DCU opened, MTN has enabled more organs per donor to be transplanted than before, with the average number of organs transplanted per donor increasing from 3.1 pre-DCU to 3.35 post-DCU opening among the same type of donor characteristics when recovered in donor hospitals.

“We anticipated that the DCU would allow a focus solely on the process of organ donation and ultimately create better outcomes for transplant recipients,” said Jan Finn, RN, MSN, MTN President & Chief Executive Officer. “It’s an honor to fulfill the mission of MTN in this incredibly important work and also recognize the need to continue innovating and improving to honor donor heroes and their families. We are proud to see our staff and facility working so well allowing us to extend the gift of life to even more recipients and provide hope for those awaiting a transplant.”

MTN staff members are highly trained in the complexity of caring for organ donor heroes in the DCU, which was designed specifically to maximize the gift of life; this can free up critical resources in area hospitals — such as intensive care unit beds and operating rooms — to serve other patients in need.

“My team has complete confidence in sending our patients to Midwest Transplant Network’s DCU,” said Carol Perry, Senior Vice President & Chief Nursing Officer, Stormont Vail Health; MTN Advisory Board. “The state-of-the-art facility allows MTN’s team of expertly trained staff members to provide specialized care for donors as their gifts are matched with recipients and throughout the organ, eye and tissue recovery process. Knowing our donor heroes are receiving high-quality care at the DCU allows us to dedicate resources to critically ill patients in our ICU.”

Out of 56 organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the U.S., MTN is just the 12th organization with a donor care and recovery center that is not based in a hospital. Creating the DCU is one of many tactics MTN has taken to improve donation outcomes.

“It was hard to imagine the extent of possibilities and growth that would result from the opening of the DCU — and yet, as a team, we have successfully learned how to perform our own echocardiograms and liver biopsies, take X-rays and prepare our own slides for pathology, all while continuing to provide the best care possible to our donor heroes,” said Emily Freund, BSN, RN, CPTC, MTN Organ Procurement Coordinator III. “The DCU is proving to be key in our mission to increasing gifts transplanted.”

[1] All DCU data pulled from Sept. 1, 2022, through July 31, 2023.