SOURCE: Gift of Hope

Gift of Hope

January 11, 2016 16:59 ET

Record Year for Organ Donation in Illinois

Guest Editorial Submission; Heart Recipient, Donor Mother Share a Unique Bond

ITASCA, IL--(Marketwired - Jan 11, 2016) - Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, the not-for-profit organization dedicated to saving lives in Illinois and northwest Indiana, helped save and enhance more lives through organ and tissue donation in 2015 than in any other year in its history. During the year, 379 people became organ donors, resulting in 1,077 organs being transplanted successfully, and more than 2,000 people became tissue donors.

But organ and tissue donation is not about numbers. It's about people -- donors, donor families and transplant recipients -- and their stories. So allow me to share a story to illustrate the impact donation has on individuals, families and communities.

Domonique "Nikki" Smith, 18, was a loving daughter, actress and straight-A college student whose life story ended in June 2015, but not before she left a special legacy of love and compassion.

"Nikki had a passion for learning and a passion for life," said Nikki's mother, Vicki Olds. "She was a vibrant force wherever she went."

As Nikki lay in a hospital ICU bed, losing her battle for life, Vicki recalled a conversation during which her daughter told her she wanted to be an organ and tissue donor. As she said good-bye to her daughter, Vicki worked with Gift of Hope to turn tragedy into triumph.

Through a process known as directed donation, Nikki's heart was transplanted into lifelong friend Tanisha Basham. Tanisha, a mother of three, is known for her sunny disposition, radiant smile and zest for life.

In 2013, Tanisha noticed her energy levels weren't what they used to be. Then she developed breathing problems. Tests revealed she had congestive heart failure -- the same condition that took her mother's life at age 48.

Before Tanisha received her transplant, her heart stopped three times. Now, with Nikki's heart beating insider her, Tanisha lives an active lifestyle that allows her to keep up with her three children.

"With Gift of Hope's help, we made it possible for Tanisha to carry on my daughter's legacy and be there for her children," Vicki said. "I carried Nikki for nine months, and Tanisha's going to carry her for the rest of her life."

In all, Nikki saved the lives of four people, including another family friend who received one of her kidneys in a second directed donation, an extreme rarity. Today, Vicki and Tanisha are passionate advocates for organ and tissue donation for Gift of Hope and the Smiles for Nikki Foundation.

Gift of Hope's team of 270 dedicated professionals serve 24 hours a day to help families make the decision to donate, provide laboratory services to help match donors with waiting recipients and provide clinical services to work toward Gift of Hope's ultimate vision -- that every opportunity for donation is successful.

But there is more work to do. Nearly 5,200 people in Illinois are waiting for an organ transplant. Thousands more will need tissue transplants at some point in their lives.

Register as a donor and share your decision with loved ones, as Nikki did.

J. Kevin Cmunt is President/CEO of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, which has offices in Chicago, Itasca and Springfield. Register to become an organ and tissue donor at

Documents and/or Photos available for this release:

Heart recipient Tanisha Basham, left, and Vikki Olds, mother of organ donor Domonique "Nikki" Smith share a unique bond.
J. Kevin Cmunt is President/CEO of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network

To view supporting documents and/or photos, go to and enter Release ID: 394627

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