For hundreds of Iowans waiting for a donated organ, the process can take years.
Not just the patient but family members experience the emotional and physical ups and downs.
Here's one woman's story of survival.
At 41, Emily Kachulis is no stranger to health challenges.
She was born with them.
"I knew that my life expectancy was pretty short and they didn't think I'd survive past my teenage years," she said.
Today the Cedar Falls woman is a walking miracle to many.
After waiting eight years on a transplant list, she received a matching heart and lungs in the fall of 2011.
"The morning I got my call four nurses came in and woke me up it was honestly the best day of my life."
Despite complications after the transplant, Emily survived.
She is no longer out of breath doing things most of us take for granted.
"You live every day. I just lived every day and if you live every day with the idea that this is the best you're going to get right here, today, I don't think you can miss," said her mom, Pastor Ruthann Shriver.
For her mother, a longtime pastor, her daughter's strength has always defied the odds.
"It made it easy on the rest of the family to believe that everything would be alright and I guess I never thought otherwise. I mean even in the face of doctors saying you know this isn't going to last and we're going to have to deal with more problems and there really isn't a lot of hope past this, that or the other thing, I don't think I ever lost faith that it would happen," said Shriver.
For Emily sharing her story means reminding others of one step you should take beyond checking yes for organ donation on your driver's license, register your wishes online.
"Hanging in there, I know 80 percent of the people waiting for organs are waiting for kidneys so there's a high demand for kidneys that would be a scary thing to be waiting for," she said.
Every ten minutes someone is added to the transplant list.
To register online go to www.iowadonorregistry.org