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'The gift of life': How organ donation transformed 2 KC-area women's lives

Transplant story
Posted at 8:05 AM, Apr 23, 2024

WESTWOOD, Kan. — According to the Midwest Transplant Network, more than 1,700 people in Missouri and 400 people in Kansas are waiting for an organ transplant.

April is national Donate Life Month and two KC-area women shared how important organ donors are and how their lives were changed by the process.

“Give hope. Share life,” is how Midwest Transplant Network spreads the mission behind organ donation: a cause close to donor mother Kola Atkins' heart.

“Super vibrant, super fun and friendly, amazing smile that would light up a room,” Kola Atkins said, remembering her daughter Mikayla, who died from a pulmonary embolism when she was 14. “The doctor looked at me and of course that’s a really hard thing to take, but there was no hesitation."

No hesitation in following through with Mikayla's wishes to be an organ donor, that is.

“That night we got the phone call from Midwest Transplant that her heart valves had gone to two babies that were waiting at Children’s Mercy,” Atkins said.

Organ recipient Curtisha Anderson said Mikayla gave those babies the gift of life, a gift Anderson received a few years ago.

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“When I received the call it’s kind of like a bittersweet moment. You know that someone else has passed away so that you could receive the gift of life,” Anderson said.

Anderson suffered from Lupus and waited years for a new kidney, only to find that the one available wasn’t a match for her.

“I was a little bit sad about it cause I really wanted the kidney,” Anderson said.

According to Donate Life America, more than 100,000 people are waiting for organs and 86% of them need kidneys.

Nez Savala from Midwest Transplant Network explained that raising awareness to those numbers is what Donate Life Month is all about.

“The more people that are registered as organ donors, that’s more potential for someone who’s waiting that they don’t have to wait a long time,” said Nez Savala with the Midwest Transplant Network.

Anderson knows what that wait feels like, and the feelings of gratitude after a transplant.

“Organ donation saves lives and I'm proof of that,” Anderson said.

One way you can become a donor is by saying yes at the DMV and getting the heart on your license. You can join at any time by visiting donatelifemissouri.org or donatelifeks.com.