2020 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Kim Messenger

Kim Messenger


Kim and Karen Messenger had achieved the perfect balance in their house: She took care of all the inside duties, including cooking and paying bills, and he managed everything outside the house. Then, in January 2009, Karen suffered a fatal brain aneurysm at age 41. Suddenly, the balance was disrupted and Kim found himself a single father of two teenaged sons, struggling to manage their daily lives and move on amidst his grief. Just a month before she died, Karen had told Kim she wanted to be an organ donor if anything were to happen to her - a conversation, he says, for which he is forever grateful. "I sleep well at night because I fulfilled her final wishes," he says.


Karen MessengerKim found hope and purpose in continuing Karen's legacy, and discovered that he has no limits when it comes to spreading the word about organ donation through Karen's story. In 2010, he became a volunteer for UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD), supporting community outreach events and speaking to groups. He is a quiet and unassuming man, yet so passionate about organ donation that he's willing to step outside his comfort zone to tell his wife's story. He carries Karen's picture with him wherever he goes and shares it with people when talking about her incredible gift. His deeply personal message is very effective - he remembers one couple at a health fair who were so touched by Karen's story that they registered as organ donors.


Kim lives in Rhinelander, Wis., far from many of the events UW OTD sponsors. So, he takes it upon himself to bring the message of organ donation closer to home. Every April, he spends a week at the local Department of Motor Vehicles, quietly awaiting the opportunity to tell drivers renewing their licenses why being an organ donor is so important.


"I can sit there for 8 hours," he says, "and even if only one person registers, I feel like I've done my job."


"I get comfort out of volunteering," he continues. "The most satisfying thing I've ever done is volunteering for UW OTD. I always say that I only do it because Karen is right there, walking with me."


Read more stories from the 2020 transplant calendar