Enough people to populate a small city — over 100,000 — are waiting for an organ donation in the United States. Unfortunately, thousands will never receive the call saying that a suitable donor organ, and a second chance at life, has been found. Each day 18 people will die waiting for an organ. Did you also know that one donor can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of up to 100 others? Every 10 minutes another name is added to the transplant list waiting for a life-saving phone call. What can you do about it? Here is Kim’s story.
10 Questions with ~ Kim McMahon
Tell me about your business, charity or cause.
My son William “Will” McMahon was an active, healthy, 16-year old honor student. During the last week of 2004 he suddenly developed flu-like symptoms. Less than a week later, Will was diagnosed with unexplainable liver failure. He was flown to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla. in critical condition, with only 24 hours to live. Miraculously, he received a donated liver in time to save his life. Following his transplant on Jan. 2, 2005, Will fought bravely to recover and successfully returned home to resume his schoolwork, along with his passions of surfing and playing the guitar. Five months later, however, my son developed complications and was placed back on the organ waiting list, in need of a second liver transplant. Unfortunately, he passed away on May 19, 2005, as he waited. Following his passing, I founded http://www.donate4william.org in his memory with the purpose of educating and supporting the need for more registered organ donors. My son might be alive today if more than 35% of eligible citizens were registered donors. During my time away from my job as a flight attendant I speak to schools, civic groups, and other audiences encouraging everyone to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor and to share their wishes with other family members.
What’s your favorite part of a typical day?
Visiting my son’s grave at the cemetery in the afternoons as the sun sets. His golden retriever accompanies me and we run together through the little roads inside the memorial park. It’s my quiet time to reflect on my son’s life, draw inspiration and think.
What part of your day would you gladly give up?
The never-ending errands! Trips to the grocery store, the post office, etc. I would gladly relinquish the basic daily errands in order to focus more on the non-profit foundation or time enjoying life.
If you could change anything you have done in your cause, what would it be?
I would really like to meet and thank the family of my son’s liver donor but I’ve never been able to locate them. Because of their generosity during the worst time of their lives I was fortunate to have five more precious months with William.
What keeps you up at night?
Knowing that every day 18-20 people die waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Over 110,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list, yet less than half the population has registered as organ donors. We don’t need a cure; the organs are out there. The year my son passed away, there were 2.5 million recorded deaths in the U.S. alone. Organ donation doesn’t cost anything. We just need to educate people about the subject and create awareness.
Who gives you the best advice about your cause?
Family and friends are always extremely supportive. However, I find that the groups that I speak to and interact with, particularly the teens, inspire me. The look in their eyes and hearing their response tells me that I am reaching them with my message. They really feel empowered that they can make a difference too! I approach every speaking event as an opportunity to grow and learn. People also share their own personal transplant stories with me which I am grateful to hear. It always drives me that much harder to get the word out about organ donation.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’ve been a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines for over 33 years now and thoroughly enjoy my work. I’ve traveled the world and have been fortunate to be able to experience other cultures and lifestyles.
What would you like to see happen with your cause?
I would like to have a greater impact on a larger level. As a non-profit, I do what I can with the funding we receive but I often wish I could reach more people with the message. Organ donation is accepted by every major religion in the world, and it crosses every economic, social, and racial barrier. I’d like to get that message out on a national scale!
Share a failure and a triumphant outcome to something you have faced in your life.
My son’s donor liver failed, and he went back on the transplant waiting list. We weren’t able to get him a second transplant in time to save his life. I feel a small sense of triumph each time I learn that my son’s story has inspired someone else to register as an organ donor.
If you were in charge of everything in the world for a day, what’s the first change you would make?
I would make the U.S. organ donor registry “opt out” versus “opt in.” Typically, countries that assume everyone to be an organ donor do not have lengthy waiting lists like we have in the U.S.
Foundation Web Site: http://www.donate4william.org
Will2Live Documentary: http://www.vimeo.com/13873856