Life Connection recognizes local organ recipient, family of donor during Wright State game

Life Connection of Ohio teamed up with Wright State University to recognize two local families impacted by organ donation, including a local teen from Huber Heights.

Tater Hicks, 18, was born prematurely at 25 weeks and was hospitalized until he was 8 months old. As grew he older, he continued to be hospitalized, dealing with surgeries and feeding tubes.

When Tater was 3 years old, he was placed on the national transplant waiting list for a multi-organ transplant. To survive, Tater needed a new small intestine, liver, and pancreas. On April 15, 2010, Tater received a life-saving multi-organ transplant at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“His life is a thousand times better,” said his mother, Narqueisha Johnson. “He still has his days where he might not feel good. He does have to take medication for the rest of his life. He still has hospital stays, but they’re short. They’re not months and months of him being stuck in the hospital.”

Being a multi-organ recipient not only saved his life, but it has helped Hicks reduce his hospital stays and participate in more activities, such as in the Huber Heights Basketball Association. Hicks enjoys playing basketball and making people laugh.

“He’s a happy kid,” Johnson said. “Now he can really live life.” Johnson said her son wouldn’t have survived without the organ transplant.

Also at Saturday night’s Wright State basketball game, Life Connection recognized a local family of an organ donor, Todd Nikolai. He was a devoted husband to his wife, Wendy, and father to their daughter, Carina. on June 3, 2008, 40-year-old Todd died of a brain hemorrhage.

“It was unexpected,” Wendy said about their loss. Wendy said Todd had gone through different medical issues throughout his life, including having two heart valves replaced, but his passing was a shock.

“We never thought we would lose him all together,” Wendy said.

Doctors approached Wendy about organ donation, and she found Life Connection. She also consulted with Todd’s other family members, including one of his brothers, who agreed the decision to be an organ donor fit with Todd’s personality.

“Todd had been such a giving person in life,” Wendy said. Both of Todd’s kidneys and his liver were perfect matches for three different people, Wendy said. She said hearing how this had impacted those individuals’ lives helped her while she grieved her own loss of her husband.

“Knowing that he had given further life or better life or a less complicated life to three other people at that time … it gave meaning to the grief,” Wendy said. “It just really lifted me through that time.”

Wendy has not met those recipients, but through Life Connection, she did receive a letter from one of the recipients. From her experience, Wendy has volunteered with Life Connection to help spread awareness about organ donation and dispel myths.

“There are a lot of misconceptions out there,” Wendy said.

Donate Life Ohio addresses one of the big misconceptions spread that deters organ donation, which is the idea of, “If doctors know I’m a donor, they won’t try to save me.” If a doctor were to do less, in any circumstance, they would likely lose their medical license, according to Donate Life Ohio. Hospital personnel aren’t involved in the donation process, and they also don’t have access to the donor registry. Only organ procurement organizations do.

Age should also not be a deterrent to donating, as Donate Life Ohio says individuals can donate at any age. The oldest donor in the U.S. was 92 years old at the time of his death. Donors families are also not charged in the donation process, and all costs are incurred by the organ/tissue recovery agency.

Even with pre-existing medical conditions, there’s still a possibility you can be a donor. Recent advances in transplantation now allow more people to become donors, including those with diabetes, cancer, poor eyesight, and HIV/AIDS, according to Donate Life Ohio.

For more information on organ donation, visit

By the numbers

More than 100,000 Americans and 3,000 Ohioans are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, according to Donate Life Ohio. Approximately 20 people die each day in the U.S. while waiting for a transplant. Every 48 hours, an Ohioan dies while waiting for a transplant.

In the U.S., the most commonly transplanted organs are the kidney, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas, and intestines, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There were only approximately 14,000 deceased organ donors in 2021, with each providing on average 3.5 organs. Living donors provide on average only around 6,000 organs per year.

In the U.S, the most commonly transplanted tissues are bones, tendons, ligaments, skin, heart valves, blood vessels, and corneas. Around 3.3 million tissue grafts are distributed each year. About 2.5 million grafts are transplanted.

To learn more about organ donation, visit

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