9-year-old Utahn thriving thanks to two families who chose organ donation

FARMINGTON, Utah -- Since November of 2014, Fox 13 has partnered with Intermountain Donor Services to encourage you to become an organ donor by sharing the stories of those who have donated or received a life-saving Gift of Hope.

These days Kaidence Stephenson looks like any other 9-year-old child, but the Farmington girl's journey to reach that point has been a complicated one.

When she was 5 years old, a virus affected her heart and it didn’t recover. Doctors installed an artificial heart to bridge the gap until she could receive a heart transplant.

The transplant was done in December of 2007 using the heart from a boy named Devohn, and the two families formed a close bond afterward, even vacationing together. But four years after the transplant, Kaidence developed coronary artery disease. Her mother, Shauntelle, was devastated.

“How do I tell Devohn's family? Because I didn’t want it to feel like they were losing him again,” Stephenson said of that time.

After a lot of prayer, Shauntelle and her husband put Kaidence back on the donor wait list. It took 292 days before another heart became available in August of 2014.

But this time they did not get a letter from the donor family, so they don't know who they are.

“They said they'd send a letter, and we haven't heard anything,” Stephenson said. “Of course, we'd always love to be able to have a relationship with them.”

These days Kaidence is healthy, but her vocal chords were affected by being intubated so often. She may speak softly, but her words are heartfelt.

“I think I’ve been given such a big gift, and I’m really thankful,” she said

Shauntelle is so grateful to the families who chose organ donation. If not for them, Kaidence wouldn't be able to play with her brother, 6-year-old Carden.

“I think Kaidence's mission is a little different, and we’re not in charge of it, but we'll do the best to hopefully help our donor families know how grateful we are for what they've given us, and take care of her the best that we can,” Stephenson said.

All you need to do to be an organ donor is say “yes” on your driver’s license or state ID card. Click here to sign up or learn more.

It’s also a good idea to let your family know about your decision so your wishes will be carried out.