Find Hope In This Story
In December 2004, Jake MacKinnon received life-saving surgery that gave him a new pancreas. The 19-year-old had dealt with Type I diabetes nearly his entire life, and without that surgery, his prospects were not good. Sadly, such a miracle is often only possible due to tragedy. The tragedy in this situation? Parents Donate Their Son’s Organs, a 20-year-old man from who the organ came died in an accident.
That young man was named Kalem Millard, and his parents, Bill and Tish, decided to donate their son’s organs to save lives. This alone would be an inspiring story of love for our fellow humans and a reminder that God can work miracles in the darkest of times. Nearly a decade later, though, the story became even more inspiring when Bill needed an organ transplant.
The Tragic Death of Kalem Millard
Just five days after celebrating his 20th birthday, young Kalem Millard was in an ATV accident. He tragically slipped into a coma with no brain function. His parents were left with a difficult choice, and after their son died, they had his organs donated to help others. Jake MacKinnon received Kalem’s pancreas, and it gave him a brand new chance at life.
Jake went on to make the most of his gift. In July 2015, he was healthy and engaged to be married. This was only possible due to Bill and Tish Millard’s spirit of generosity. Jake’s mother, Janice MacKinnon, recognized the sacrifice and wrote a letter to thank Bill and Tish. The two were so moved that they reached back out — and the two families became friends.
After that point, the families met every year in December. The MacKinnons planted an evergreen tree on the Millard’s property in memory of Kalem, and the gathering offers an opportunity for a yearly lighting ceremony. In December 2013, though, Bill was too sick to take part due to kidney failure. Janice MacKinnon knew exactly what needed to be done.
Blessings Rise From Tragedy
By the time Bill Millard became too ill to participate in his son’s tree lighting ceremony, he had been on dialysis for over two years. During that time, the Millards and MacKinnons maintained their giving spirit by holding fundraisers in Kalem’s name to purchase bikes for needy children. Janice MacKinnon really stepped up, though, when she offered her kidney to Bill.
Typically, a patient in need of an organ has to wait up to seven years for a compatible deceased donor. No one knows if Bill had that much time left, but that’s only because Janice was a compatible donor. Nearly 10 years after Bill and Tish gave the ultimate gift to Janice’s son — the gift of a healthy life — Janice returned the favor by giving Bill the same.
California Pacific Medical Center performed the surgeries. They said that they’d never seen someone give an organ to a family who had donated one to theirs. It was an unspeakable tragedy when young Kalem lost his life, but through that heartache, it seems that two lives may have been saved due to the graciousness of those involved in this story.
The Gift That Keeps Giving
Both Janice’s and Bill’s surgeries went smoothly, and while the transplant will need monitoring, doctors had little doubt that Bill would live a normal life. In fact, Bill and Tish began discussing going on a cruise after the successful completion of the transplant. After all, they hadn’t been able to even consider such an activity while Bill was frequently attached to a machine.
Fortunately, this isn’t the end of either family’s story. They plan on remaining friends and gathering together to celebrate the gift of life that started decades ago with Kalem. Both families also hope that their stories inspire others to give that gift by becoming donors. In the end, young Kalem’s story may very well end up helping innumerable others.
While Kalem may not have known it at the time, his life had more of an effect on this world than most of us could ever hope for.
How DonorWerx Can Help
If there’s one thing this story teaches us, it’s that God rewards those who care for others. Bill and Janice could have dealt with their tragic loss in a completely different way, and no one would have blamed them. It was their decisions to save a life, though, that ended up saving Bill’s nearly a decade later. When we give out of love, blessings are the typical outcome.
Church leaders would do well to remind their congregants of this. At DonorWerx, we can help you in this process. Our giving specialists will show you how to increase giving in your ministry, and the Bible tells us that your parishioners will benefit just as much as your church. Click here to Get started today, and learn just how powerful the right message can be.