Omaha transplant recipient using candles to light the way to donor awareness

An Omaha transplant recipient is giving back to the community one handmade candle at a time.
Published: Oct. 27, 2023 at 7:07 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Rodney Bennett of Omaha is creating light after some of his darkest days.

He started SunFlare Brands Company, with a candle line dedicated to transplant recipients.

“The thought behind the candle is that anyone going through the transplant donation process could gift it to someone,” Bennett said.

Bennett knows the transplant process all too well.

“It was just grueling, exhausting. It was like, ‘when is it going to be over?’

He’s referring to his time in dialysis before his transplant. After health problems led to kidney failure he was in need of a donor.

“I didn’t really know when the transplant was coming, when it was going to happen. All the journey it took for me to get on the transplant list,” Bennett said.

Thankfully, less than a year after starting dialysis, Bennett found his match. He said he couldn’t believe it when the nurse called.

“I thought it was my sister playing with me. She calls back, she’s like, ‘No, have a kidney for you. This is real,’” he said.

Doctors at Nebraska Medicine told Six News, not everyone is that fortunate.

“Generally we tell people two to three years, which is a long time. But if you walk into a transplant hospital in a place like San Francisco, they’ll say ‘it’s hard to say, but it will be eight to ten years,’” said Dr. Cliff Miles, transplant surgeon with Nebraska Medicine.

Now, almost five years later, Bennett is hoping to connect with his donor’s family.

“I want to show them that ‘hey this is what I’m going to do with this second chance, thanks to your loved one,” he said.

He’ll make the connection through a letter with the help of Live On Nebraska.

“I feel so grateful to be that portal to connect them. I’ve never heard a bad story about a connection. They’re just so grateful,” said Dana Newman who is part of Live On Nebraska’s aftercare team.

Until the connection is made and even after Bennett hopes more people will understand the importance of organ donation.

“Everyone should be a hero. And that’s what you are when you donate,” he said.

Nebraska medicine’s transplant program is the only one in the state. You can find more information on their program here.