Four adults smiling outdoors, one female and three males.
Left to right: Lisa's sister Judy, liver recipient Scott, Lisa's husband Scott, and Lisa’s brother Paul.

Scott Kallio had been on the wait list for a liver transplant more than three years when he finally received a phone call that a liver had become available.

The U.S. Army veteran and his husband Jerry quickly left their Wisconsin campsite and traveled to UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, to prepare for the liver transplant. Unfortunately, when the surgical team examined the donor liver, it was deemed unsuitable for transplant and the surgery was cancelled.

The news was difficult for Scott to hear, and he was upset. “When I left the hospital, I didn’t even want to talk to anybody,” he said.

And then, the miracle happened.

Scott and Jerry decided to stop by Scott’s mother’s house in the Milwaukee suburbs before they went home to Drake, Colorado. “When we walked up to the house, my mom said, “You have to call your cousin Kristin in Florida right now. She told me her good friend had passed away and was an organ donor. I called the Veterans Administration and told them there was a possibility of me getting the friend’s liver. Kristin gave the family my name.”

As it turned out, Lisa Bormann, a 60-year-old woman who lived in West Bend, Wisconsin, had suffered a brain aneurysm. While she had been improving under doctors’ treatment, she suffered a stroke at the hospital. Doctors declared her dead based on neurologic death criteria on Aug. 12, 2023.

Kristin reached out to Lisa’s sister, Judy Plautz, and learned Lisa was registered as an organ, tissue and eye donor on the Wisconsin Donor Registry. The two women started talking about the possibility of directing Lisa’s liver to Scott. In a directed donation, the donor’s family can request their loved-one’s organ be offered to someone they know needs a transplant.

“My whole thought was, we can’t have her back,” said Judy. “When Kristin contacted me, it was hard, but as time went on, I thought it would be great if someone we were connected to was helped.”

Remarkably, Lisa’s liver was a good match for Scott, and he received his gift of life from Lisa on Aug. 16, 2023. Throughout the experience, Lisa’s family kept in contact with Scott feeling that, in the midst of their grief, they had found some renewed hope.

A month later, Scott was invited to Lisa’s celebration of life in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. “I met probably 200 people there, if not more,” Scott said. “It was just unbelievable, and they were so gracious and happy that I got Lisa’s liver.”

It’s still difficult for Lisa’s family members to talk about her loss—especially her husband, whose name is also Scott. They miss the woman who loved dogs, enjoyed organizing events and wanted to help other people all the time. “Lisa was such a kind, caring soul,” said Judy.

They take comfort in the fact that not only did Lisa save Scott, but her kidneys and eyes were able to help people, too.

Scott Kallio has spent the last three months healing from his transplant and counting his blessings. He still has some rough days, he says, but he’s been able to enjoy walking his dogs and reading.

“This whole thing was a miracle,” he said. “No one can tell me any different.”