Mother of organ donor meets teen saved by donation

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COLUMBUS - Mother's Day is a time to stop and thank our moms for all they've given us, including the gift of life.

It's also a day moms take stock of the loves and losses that go with being a parent.

For two Ohio mothers, this Mother's Day will have special significance, for that very reason.

DaMia Williams was just 13 when doctors discovered her kidneys were only five percent functional. She was in end-stage kidney failure.

"She would need a transplant if she was going to live," Dee said.

In the meantime, there would be surgeries, regular hospital visits, and hours upon hours of dialysis treatments.

Dancing -- even schoolwork -- took a back seat.

"Having your blood washed constantly for that many hours kinds of drains you," DaMia said. "So I didn't have that much energy. Very tired a lot of the time."

For her mother, the wait was agonizing.

"They told us it would be three to five years. And so I just believed she would hold on, and as long as I stayed strong, she would hold on to my strength," Dee said. "All I knew to do was to breathe and pray."

On May 18 of 2017, some 120 miles away in Delphos, Ohio, another mother was facing the darkest moment of her life.

"Her father called me and told me he had found her, in her garage. She had hung herself," Sandee Kipfinger said.

Cheyanne Klaus was 20 years old.

"Happy. All the time happy. Singing, dancing -- she was a dancer too. Since she was 3-years old, she loved to dance," Sandee said. "She was my first-born. My only daughter. Loved her very, very, very much. She was in the hospital on life support. They came to us and told us she was an organ donor. She obviously thought about helping other people when she decided to become an organ donor, when they asked her that question at the license bureau. If Cheyanne wasn't going to stay with us, we would definitely love to help other people."

On May 20, the prayers of DaMia and her family were answered.

"(The doctor) explained to her that he could not have hand-picked a more perfect kidney for her -- that of all the kidneys they had before, that this was the perfect match for her," Dee said.

They didn't know who the donor was, or what had happened, but were keenly aware their blessing carried a heavy cost for another family.

"I was very grateful, but very sad for their family at the same time," DaMia said. "So it was hard to be excited for myself, and be sad for someone else."

Cheyanne Klaus saved six lives through organ donation and restored vision to two other people in need of corneas.

Six months after her death, her mother was allowed to begin corresponding with those recipients.

And last week, she traveled to Columbus to meet DaMia and her family face-to-face for the first time.

Through tears and whispered words, Sandee and DeMia hugged.

"You're so beautiful, you are," Sandee said.

"Thank you," DaMia said. "I'm very grateful for this. It's amazing to meet you. Thank you so much."

"You're welcome. You're such a beautiful girl. I'm glad that Cheyanne got to help you. It couldn't have happened to a better girl," Sandee said.

DaMia introduced Sandee to her mother Dee.

The families sat down to look at a photo album of Cheyanne. Pictures tell the story of a young woman gone too early. Sandee will never get over the loss of her daughter.

But the gifts Cheyanne left behind, are helping her heal.

"Seeing her change somebody's life, giving (DaMia) life, helping her live happy and giving her a full life for the rest of her life, you can't beat that. Cheyanne -- she did what she did. I can't change that. But I can help her live on."

Right now there are 114,825 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant; 2,900 of those people are in Ohio.

To register as an organ donor, click here.

Frequently asked questions about organ donation.