Hundreds of Iowans are waiting for a donated organ to save their life.
One Cedar Valley woman shares her story of beating the medical odds thanks to a stranger's gift.
At 42, Emily Kachulis looks like a typical dog lover on the outside.
But on the inside a stranger's heart and lungs are keeping the Cedar Falls woman alive.
"Eighteen people die every day just waiting on the list. We know it's needed but I think people miss how great it can be for them if they lose a loved one to honor their life, to let part of their loved one live on. I think that's huge," she said.
Born with health problems, Emily eventually needed a heart and lung transplant to survive--but waited eight years before it happened.
"I know other people that have been waiting and didn't get them right after me. Another man that was a friend that went in for a heart and he didn't get his. There's not enough donors so people die waiting. I'm just trying to readjust to this whole new lifestyle and hope I can make something of it," she said.
As part of Donate Life month, advocates like Emily are speaking out about the need for organ donors.
"I had a passion for it in my past life. I was a house supervisor who is always directly involved with the death of a patient," said Stacey Smith, a registered nurse.
As part of the Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare Organ, Tissue and Eye Committee, Stacey Smith shares how both the donor family and recipient can benefit.
"Well we do have a pretty large dialysis population in our community. We have one based in our hospital and to see those patients on dialysis and to see that this last organ donor was able to give to kidneys," said Smith.
For Emily who still needs close monitoring after her transplant in 2011, every breath is one she will never take for granted.
"But it happens every day there are people that survive. If I can do it anybody can, I know that's true."
A free community event is happening a Thursday, April 18 called Faces of Donation.
A cornea recipient and donor family will share their stories.
The Wheaton-sponsored event is from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Waterloo Center for the Arts. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.