Versiti - Savannah Johnston | Impact Stories

Savannah Johnston

“If my mom can live on in someone else and give them a second chance at life, that’s what I wanted.”

Savannah Johnston

Savannah Johnston remembers her mother, Kristen, as a fun mom, albeit not the most responsible person. Sadly, Kristen struggled with addiction, and one night, Savannah received the call she’d been dreading: Kristen wasn’t breathing. “Instantly, I knew what happened—she had overdosed,” she says. “When you have a family member who’s an addict, you always sort of expect it to happen, but it’s still always too soon.”

Kristen was rushed to the hospital, where doctors attempted to revive her and managed to restore her breathing. “I had the tough conversation with the doctor that she probably wasn’t going to make it,” Savannah says. “She went too long without oxygen and had too much brain damage to recover.”

After three long days in the hospital, doctors gave Savannah the sad news that Kristen no longer had brain function. Savannah soon met with a representative from Versiti, who broached the topic of organ and tissue donation. “I will never, ever forget her face. She was the most comforting person throughout the entire process,” Savannah says. “Not a second in my mind did I say no to organ donation. I immediately said yes. If my mom can live on in someone else and give them a second chance at life, that’s what I wanted.”

Kristen donated her heart, liver and kidneys, saving the lives of three men in their 50s who received her kidneys and liver, and a woman in her 30s who received her heart. “That really struck me. Because of this gift, one day, she can have a family of her own, if she wants,” Savannah says. “Knowing that it could be a happy ending for someone else—just the thought of my mom’s heart still beating really brought me that comfort. There’s still part of her living, and it’s the better parts of her, because she struggled for so long.” 

Despite the pain of losing her mother, Savannah remains strong for her younger brothers and two small children. “It’s been a journey, and it was hard. But the easiest part of all was deciding to donate her organs,” she says. “It was an honor to speak for my mom and do what I know she would’ve wanted to.”

Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the organ transplant waiting list.

Approximately 113,000 men, women, and children are waiting for life-saving organ transplants. One organ donor has the power to save up to eight lives and change the outcomes of someone’s world forever by giving them a second chance. Additionally, tissue donation can save and improve the lives of up to 75 people with their gifts. You can make a huge impact by registering as an organ and tissue donor.

Learn more about organ and tissue donation, or register as a donor at

Impact Stories | Organ & Tissue Donation

Annette Washington
At just 20 years old, Robert’s life was tragically cut short when he was shot by his father. His mother, Annette, honored his wishes and donated his bone, skin, tendons, ligaments and veins so that he could improve the lives of others.
Ann Scheibl
Ann was going about her day when she dislocated her knee. After several scans, doctors told her that her cartilage and tendon were destroyed, and she would need a tissue transplant.
Gigi Sanchez
After he passed away from sarcoma in 2015, Noe Sanchez donated his corneas to give the gift of sight to someone else.
Become an Organ and Tissue Donor
Learn more about how to sign up as an organ, tissue and eye donor and how organ donation saves and enhances lives in our communities.
Community Resources
Versiti Organ and Tissue offers several resources, outreach programs and educational opportunities that encourage communities support organ, tissue and eye donation.
Organ, Tissue & Eye Donation
Versiti Organ and Tissue is an organ procurement organization focused on increasing the Wisconsin donor registry though community outreach programs.
Share Your Story
Versiti invites you to share your story and photo to help encourage more people to give back. You may even be featured throughout the year on our social media.