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Recipient Stories

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Veteran Gives Back

Our December blog series is focused on those who received the Gift of Life during the holiday season. Titled “It’s a Wonderful Life,” recipients share their transplantation, and transformation, stories with us.  

Always remember, each and every one of us has the opportunity to give the gift of a wonderful life by registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor. We hope that you will read and share these uplifting stories. 


When Jeff Kauffman woke up the morning of Dec. 12, 2012, he had no idea what was in store for him that evening.

At 5 p.m., just as supper was being put on the table, he received the call that there was a kidney available for him. He and his family were thrilled to receive the news, as he had reached stage five kidney failure. This lucky day, with the digits 12-12-12, would provide the U.S. Army veteran with a new lease on life and the chance to help others have a similar opportunity.

Looking back….

About 1 1/2 years prior to his transplant, Jeff’s doctor recommended that he consider a kidney transplant, as he was at stage four kidney failure and his creatinine levels were continuing to rise. He went through the rigorous testing and was placed on the National Transplant Waiting List.Jeff-Kauffman

Thankfully, Jeff had not been on dialysis yet, but that if his kidney had not come in time, that was going to be his alternative. His kidneys were functioning at 10 to 15 percent.

After receiving the phone call, he and his wife of 44 years, Nancy, quickly headed to the hospital. “It’s hard to describe your feelings and emotions; they run pretty high. You’re happy and elated on one hand, and at the same time, you’re concerned because you’re about to go through major surgery.”

Now two years later, Mr. Kauffman’s recovery has been going well, and he said he has gradually regained his strength and usual activities. The veteran who was an E5 senior track mechanic with the 1st Battalion 36th Field Artillery in Augsburg, Germany, from 1969 to 1971, is using his renewed energy to give back to a cause that means so much to him. Last year, while serving as the commander of the Department of Ohio American Legion, Mr. Kauffman chose Donate Life Ohio as his special project for the year. A fundraising and awareness campaign was initiated around the state involving his fellow American Legion members. “I wanted to get more people to register to be organ donors,” he said. “So much of the project focused on educating members on what it means to be a donor and how to register.

In total, about $18,000 was raised through the project for Donate Life Ohio, the coalition of the state’s organ, eye and tissue recovery agencies dedicated to educating Ohioans about the need for organ, eye and tissue donation, according to

Also with the agency’s assistance, the area resident has been able to express his appreciation to his donor’s family. While he does not know his kidney donor’s name or anything else about this person, he has been able to send letters to communicate with the family how he is doing.

The life-saving possibilities that organ transplant affords are something that he said he couldn’t have imagined years ago. “I think it’s a miracle and a true blessing,” he said of his experience. “I’ve absolutely been feeling good and haven’t had any pain. “It’s amazing what they do with transplants. I would have never dreamed of any of this when I was growing up.”

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