INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Donor Network says they need more minorities to become organ donors.
Nationwide, 60 percent of people on the transplant waiting list are people of color.
Deven Willis was one of them. He and his wife Nikki, learned he was in kidney failure in 2017.
“It was April of last year when I went to see the doctor because I thought I had a severe cold," Deven said. "They told me right then and there that my kidneys had failed."
The news was devastating to the Willis family. Nikki and Deven were high school sweethearts with two teenage daughters, living a happy life in Indianapolis.
Deven was put on the transplant waiting list. They learned it would take at least three years for him to receive a kidney. Deven was one of hundreds on the Indiana waiting list.
“Here in Indiana there are nearly 1,300 people on the transplant waiting list," said Ebony Chappel, Multicultural Communications Coordinator for Indiana Donor Network. "Over 400 of them are people of color."
The highest needs are for heart and kidney transplants.
The matching process is based on several factors including waiting time for the person on the list, body size, weight and blood type.
“There are some medical professionals in the field that believe that transplants are more successful when the donor and the recipient come from similar ethnic backgrounds,” Chappel said.
Nikki decided to get tested to find out if she was a match for her husband.
“Deven didn’t even know I got tested. It was a surprise,” Nikki said.
On Christmas day Nikki revealed that she had been tested and that she was a match.
“He shed a tear, he cried,” Nikki said.
“She wrapped it up in a box and I opened it up and it said ‘I’m a match’ in the box. I actually kept the box but that’s how I found out she was a match. It was very touching,” said Deven.
Today they are two months post-surgery. Both Deven and Nikki are happy and healthy. If possible they’re even closer than ever.
“I will always have a piece of her in me. So I guess from that it made us closer, but I don’t think I could’ve been any closer than I already was,” said Deven.
"To know that you can have an impact on someone's life like this and change someone's life. It's really just a gift from God that you are able to heal someone,” said Nikki.
If you would like to learn more about ways to help or register for organ donation follow this link: Become a Donor
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