‘Make your life count for more than just you,’ Local man shares how donor saved his life

(Photo: Ken Vanatti)
(Photo: Ken Vanatti)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Most of us think of February 14th as Valentine’s Day, but there’s another reason to show love. It’s also National Donor Day.

According to national statistics, nearly 120,000 people are on a waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant.

For Ken Vanatti, he was one of those people. These days, he looks at life a lot differently.

“I lived for the weekends and family time,” Vanatti said, “and now I just live for every day, I thank God every day I get up.”

That statement would have been different several years ago. In 2008, Vanatti was diagnosed with Stage Five Kidney Failure.

“I was devastated, I didn’t know what to think,” he said, “I wasn’t happy with my doctor, I was angry at the world.”

It wasn’t until 2012 when Vanatti received his first kidney, as well as a pancreas. Two weeks later, he experienced a blood clot, which cause him to lose the kidney.

“I was in the hospital for right at two months because of losing the kidney,” he said, “and I was having to really learn how to walk again, and I didn’t want to get out of that bed. I was depressed from losing the kidney.”

Vanatti had another chance at life, he received another kidney in 2014. Vanatti has had the kidney for four years now and says it’s doing well.

For Vanatti, it’s been a difficult journey. Between numerous hospital visits and dark days, being alive is something he doesn’t take for granted.

“You got to learn if you get down, you got to get up and fight,” he said, “You just got to keep fighting. You can either lay down and die or you can get up and fight, but if you get up and fight, there’s no going back. You got to keep pushing forward.”

Though Vanatti has never met his donors, it’s not because he doesn’t want to.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said, “You don’t know what to say to somebody when you get a gift like that. It’s the perfect gift. What do you say to somebody that gave their life for you?”

Years later, Vanatti is spending precious days with his family and grandchildren. He focuses on making memories to last forever, thanking those who made it possible and hoping others will do the same.

“Knowing what I know now, I wish I was a donor a long time before,” he said, “There’s no reason not to donate, there really isn’t. It does a world of good. I can’t sit here and tell you the exact numbers, but so many people benefit from one person that’s a donor. The eyes, the skin, the bones, the kidneys, the heart, there’s just so many things that can benefit this world by donating.”

“If people can be a donor, do it. Make your life count for more than just you,” he said.

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a donor, click here.