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Column: Love drives organ donor effort


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THERE was a time not so long ago when Nikki Kinman would shudder just at the mention of becoming an organ donor.

“I wanted no part of it,” the young Columbus woman said earlier this week. “In fact, I had a fear of being an organ donor.”

All that’s changed now, and it has nothing to do with the fact that she’s gotten older.

She’s signed all the necessary documents and will tell people without being asked that she’s not at all squeamish about having her body parts harvested upon her death.

 

The difference between now and then is that Nikki has a personal stake in the organ donor issue. Her father, 52-year-old Bartholomew County native Mike Tungett, has Stage IV liver disease. He needs a liver

transplant.

“We’re very close to getting him on the list for patients who qualify for a transplant,” Nikki said earlier this week. “Getting on the list alone is an enormous undertaking and requires an extreme amount of testing. However, once he gets on the list he could be called for a procedure at any time — a week, two or three months ... it just depends.”

And then there is the cost of the procedure.

“It could be as much as $650,000,” said Nikki, who works in the administrative offices at Bartholomew County Jail. Some of that could be covered by insurance. The family is in the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits for the former employee of Enkei America Inc., who had to leave his job after becoming ill in January 2012.

Nikki hopes to reduce some of those expenses through a fundraiser she and friends have organized for her father at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds this weekend.

Actually, fundraiser is sort of an understatement for what is planned in the Community Building beginning at noon Sunday.

Extravaganza seems a much more apt description.

“We’re going to have four bands, be serving food throughout the afternoon and auctioning off a variety of items,” Nikki said. “Some of the items are pretty special.”

While there will be some valuable items up for auction — televisions, an iPad, a Kindle, an Xbox among them — there also will be one-of-a-kind prizes.

“We were able to get several things personally autographed by Tony Stewart (the Columbus native and two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion),” Nikki said. “We even have a piece from his car that he signed.”

Make no mistake, this is a fundraiser intended to help ease the enormous financial burden on the family, but there’s an educational element to it as well, one that relates directly to Nikki’s earlier attitudes about organ donations.

“We really intend to raise awareness about the need for organ donors,” Nikki said. “There are going to be representatives of the Indiana Organ Procurement organization on hand to explain the process and hopefully clear up some of the myths about being an organ donor.”

Nikki’s gotten a lot of support for this weekend’s event from family members, friends, co-workers at the sheriff’s department and even people she had never met before.

When it’s over she hopes that a lot of people will follow the same path she trod in understanding the importance of becoming an organ donor. In the end, we all have a stake in it.

Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at harry@therepublic.com.

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