We've told you about a Burlington family who turned tragedy into triumph after their 10-year-old son, Garrett died in a freak accident. Tiffini and Bruce Brockway donated Garrett's organs, saving five lives and giving the gift of sight to two others. But, the Brockways aren't the only ones who know first hand, the importance of organ donation.
Kim Burdakin of Muscatine wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for a precious gift she received from a complete stranger. His picture sits in her living room next to photos of her family, but she never even knew him.
"I just feel like I have this really special connection with Steven, I honestly believe I'm going to heaven and Steven's gonna be the first person I see and we're gonna be high fiving cause we have a bond," said Kim.
You see, 21-year-old Steven Toth made it possible for Kim to live a happy, healthy life with her husband Dave and dog, Buddy Oakley.
"Steven saved my life, a part of Steven lives with me, in me."
The nightmare all started back in April of 2000. Kim woke up one day feeling sick and confused.
"But it wasn't until I looked in the mirror and realized I was quite jaundiced, my skin the whites of my eyes had started to turn yellow."
Kim was rushed to Iowa City where she was diagnosed with acute liver failure. 60 percent of her organ was destroyed and doctors told her, if she didn't have a transplant, she would die.
"All I could think of was my two daughters ages 9 and 12, not having a mother and that for me was the most devastating time in my life."
She was placed on the transplant waiting list and two weeks later, a liver became available in Michigan, Kim went through a 10 hour transplant.
"it was a blessing that I survived the surgery and lived through it."
But Steven had lost his life to give life to Kim. He was killed in a car accident.
"It's overwhelming when you know there's someone out there that did not make it, like I say, it's bitter sweet and I owe my life to his family."
Kim wanted to know more about her donor and his family, so they started to write letters. The first one Steven's family sent, is extra special.
"He was a very loving and intelligent young man with a promising future he did well in high school as well as college."
Kim and the Toths keep in touch and talk often. They actually got to meet back in 2006.
"It was a dream come true when I finally got to embrace them and hug them. There were a lot of tears, lots of Kleenex."
Now, nearly 13 years after the transplant, Kim feels better than ever, and volunteers her time working with the Iowa Donor Network to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation.
"We all want to be remembered for who we are, what we've accomplished and the differences we make and being an organ donor can make a difference in many lives."
Kim hopes telling her story will inspire others to become donors. Allowing the end of their life to be a beginning for many more.
Kim is so passionate about organ donation she actually quit her full time, paying job to dedicate all her time to raising money and awareness for the cause.
To learn more about organ donation click here for Illinois residents and here for Iowa residents.
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