Learn more about Kennedy's transplant story

Living Organ Donation: How Social Media Helped Save One Child’s Life

The Kennedy Stevenson and Mike Thompson Story

Every mother knows her child is special — one in a billion and different from others in every way.

What Donya McCoy didn’t know was that her daughter, Kennedy Stevenson, really was one in a billion.

To learn about living organ donation and how to use Facebook to find a living donor, please visit the Living Donor Champion Toolkit.

Learn more about Kennedy's transplant story

At just three years old, Kennedy was diagnosed with a metabolic disease so rare that only eight other people in the world are known to have had it. S-Adenosylhomocysteine hydrolase (AdoHcy) deficiency is a hereditary enzyme disorder that affects brain, muscle, and liver development.

A living-donor liver transplant was her only hope and because of the hereditary nature of the disease, the donor would have to someone not related to Kennedy. Desperate to find a donor for her daughter, Donya turned to Facebook.

‘Okay Friends…here it is…the request of a lifetime,’ Donya posted in July 2014.

‘Is there anyone out there who has O+ blood and would be willing to donate 25 percent of their liver to save Kennedy’s life? Trust me, I know it’s a lot to ask. I can’t even believe I’m posting this, but as a mother, I have to exhaust every option possible.’

“This was the biggest network of people I knew, and I had to do it. When I clicked that button, I was nervous and overwhelmed,” says Donya. “This isn’t something you’d ever think would happen.”

It wasn’t long before she received a message from Mike Thompson, a former classmate who wanted to help.

“I’m a firefighter, so I help people every day — but to help somebody like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Mike. “It’s just the right thing to do, and I’m glad Donya let me help.”

The transplant surgery took place on Nov. 11, 2014. Today, Kennedy and Mike are both doing well.

“Physically, she’s great,” says Donya. “She’s eating protein and developing so well — she seems to be catching up, and the doctors are amazed at her brain development. She is such a happy, playful, loving child — you’d never know she’s gone through anything so serious.”

Learn more about living-donor liver transplant at UPMC.