Kim Manning, Illinois State alum, helps save lives through organ donation

Rhena, Abby and Wil Worthington. Their son, Noah, saved lives through organ donation

After completing a master’s degree in human development/child life studies at Illinois State, Kim Manning began a career that would require passion, empathy, and commitment. Manning began her career as a family care coordinator in organ procurement in April 2012. She discovered her passion for working with grieving families while serving as a child life specialist at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. Here, she served children and families in various capacities, from the Emergency Department, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), and Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

She recalls an experience that left a mark. “One night I was working in the Emergency Department when we received notification of a Level 1 Trauma flying in from my hometown. Any time we had a patient coming in from my hometown, I always worried if I would know them. It turned out that one of the victims, an 11-year-old boy named Noah, was a child that I taught during my undergraduate student teaching program. Noah and his friend Kale had been in a motor vehicle accident and both had severe head trauma. Noah lived long enough to save several lives through organ donation.” Manning recalled. “Ever since that moment, I knew that this was the career path for me.” Hence, when a family care coordinator position became available at Manning’s local Organ Procurement Organization (OPO), she applied for the opportunity and was offered the position after several interviews. Currently, she is a senior family care coordinator at Southwest Transplant Alliance.

Losing a loved one is difficult. Should a family decide to allow their loved one to save lives through organ donation, Manning provides support to those grieving families. Sharing more details about what the process entails, she said, “We have an online charting system that allows us to view the patients that we are following for organ donation potential. A hospital is required by law to notify their local OPO if a patient meets certain neurological triggers, if a patient is being declared brain dead, or if a family elects to take their loved ones off life support,” Manning said. “Each morning, I view these patients and once a family or medical team has decided to initiate end-of-life discussions, I or one of my colleagues come to the hospital to speak with the family. I work an on-call schedule, so I am on call for 24 hours, 12 days a month. During that 24-hour period, I may speak to one or several families about organ donation.”

Beyond offering the opportunity to save lives through organ donation, Manning provides families with the support they need, listening actively and helping them process the sudden loss of their loved ones. For Manning, this is a fulfilling aspect of her career. “My donor families are very special to me and I feel blessed that I am able to hold their hand as they walk through the most difficult journey of their lives.”

Finally, Manning shared resources with students and young professionals interested in pursuing a career path. She advises exploring the following websites: Donate Life America, Gift of Hope (Illinois’ Organ Procurement Organization), Southwest Transplant Alliance, Donor Family Meeting.

Start your journey to a fulfilling and rewarding career, by exploring the programs in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences here.