Inspiring others to “Donate Life”


MASON CITY, Iowa – At Mercy Medical Center North Iowa, one man is sharing his experience of becoming an organ recipient to help inspire others.

Steve Ferkau was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease which creates thick mucus in the lungs making it very difficult to breathe.

14 years-ago, a second chance at life came in the form of a pair of lungs from the late Kari Westberg of Algona.

“I never imagined that breathing would be this amazing but I don’t know what made her think that way and I have to believe that she was influenced by people like Iowa Donor Network and people telling others about the goodness of organ donation,” said Ferkau.

No one knows why Kari Westberg decided to become an organ donor, but Steve continues to hold on to the Algona teen’s memory, after receiving both of her lungs.

“It’s the moments when I noticed when I’m taking a long deep breath that I feel her smile surrounding me,” said Ferkau.

“We all know what donations are, we’ve heard about it but to have it be real, to understand it is really is amazing. It makes it real for them. To hear somebody’s story, to hear somebody talk, we’re so lucky to have somebody come here and share their story,” said Sheyanne Schultz, a registered nurse with Mercy Medical Center North Iowa.

Doctors were able to use Kari’s heart, her kidneys, and her pancreas to help others around the country.

Now each year, her friends, family and others honor her with the “Hustle Up The Hancock” stair climb.

Together they scale the 94 stories of the Hancock Center in downtown Chicago, Ill.

“You cannot possibly imagine what it feels like to breathe normally. I feel like someone slapped a silly red and blue spandex outfit on me, gave me a long red cape, smacked a big S on my chest and told me, go ahead take on the world,” said Ferkau.

Steve speaks to groups in hopes that by sharing Kari’s memory,and what she’s done for him, those who hear him will consider becoming a donor themselves.

To register to become an organ, tissue and eye donor visit: or call 1(800)-831-4131.

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