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This Milwaukee teen is sharing her story to encourage donors for National Donate Life Month

Aaliyah Milledge's medical journey is a miracle. After a mysterious lung condition put her life in danger, a double lung transplant from an organ donor saved her life. Today, she breathes life into new lungs and shares her story to advocate for more organ donors of color for National Donate Life Month.

Listen to the audio story below to hear Aaliyah’s heartwarming story and why she’s on a mission to share it for National Donate Life Month.

Photo provided by Versiti
The summer before starting her junior year of high school, Milledge became sick with a seemingly innocent cough. The cough evolved into more severe symptoms and several hospital stays showed just how mysterious this illness would be. Doctors found it challenging to make a diagnosis as tests continued to come back negatively, forcing them to reach out to their network for help.

After it was determined she would need new lungs, there were new challenges Milledge and her family would have to face. Not only did she have to find an organ donor match for her lungs, but she also had to find a hospital that would be able to perform this procedure on her because she was a minor at the time.

Milledge and her mother were preparing to move to the closest hospital willing to take on her case – Pittsburgh – when she a got a phone call from Madison. With the opportunity to be treated closer to home, Milledge was placed on the transplant list and the wait began.

Milledge’s entire journey involved months of staying in ICU, being medically induced into a coma twice and constantly fighting for survival. She even fell sick for a few days in Madison, which caused her to be removed from the transplant list temporarily. After a month of waiting and rehabilitating, a lung match was finally found.

A year after falling sick, Milledge received new a double lung transplant and quickly regained her health. Today, she and her mom are encouraging people to become registered organ donors, especially in communities of color where there is a shortage of registered donors.

Since donors of the same ethnic and genetic background lead to more accurate and successful transplants, Milledge is calling on people of color to consider becoming an organ donor in order to save a life in their community.

Milledge credits her successful transplant to a local organization called Versiti. They coordinate transplants all over Milwaukee and Wisconsin and provides educational resources to people interested in become organ donors. For information on how to join the organ donor registry in Milwaukee and educational resources about being an organ donor, visit Versiti here.