Killeen born and raised, Nefeterius Akeli McPherson, 39, was the recipient of a life-saving liver transplant in 2011. It put her life on a new path to promote organ donations, a task she will continue at the Rose Bowl parade on Jan. 1.

McPherson’s troubles began in 2004. Over the course of seven years, she was in and out of the hospital, diagnosed with a rare bile duct and liver disease, and dealing with regular procedures in hope of staving off an inevitable liver transplant.

“I felt like it was a sleeping giant,” she said of her dormant disease.

Still, she continued her studies at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. “Law school kept my mind off the scary stuff,” McPherson said. “The whole school rallied around me.”

She graduated in 2008, and the following year, moved to Washington, D.C., to work in the Obama administration. Her disease kept her repeatedly hospitalized and struggling to recover from international trips.

In 2011, McPherson was added to the transplant list, never allowing herself to consider the chance she wouldn’t receive a liver. After 172 days, she got the call.

“I knew there was a reason why I was alive, but I never expected the donor to be someone’s child,” McPherson said, tearing up, “It broke my heart. I lived a very good life, and this child will never get to do the things I’ve done.”

McPherson always planned to meet the donor’s family, but receiving a letter from 12-year-old donor Taitlyn Shae Hughes’ mother was hard.

She learned of Taitlyn’s dream of changing the world. “Finding the proper words to thank a grieving (family) was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”

Three months later, McPherson met Taitlyn’s family for the first time in West Virginia.

McPherson dedicated herself to keeping Taitlyn’s dream alive by sharing their story.

“Part of her lives on in me,” McPherson said. “It’s humbling. I want to make sure when people talk about me, they talk about her, too.”

On New Year’s Day, McPherson will ride on the Donate Life float in the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, Calif., alongside more than 30 transplant recipients and living donors. Her ride is sponsored by the nonprofit Taylor’s Gift.

McPherson works with local and national donation organizations to ensure Taitlyn’s memory will live on.

“I don’t want people to ever forget her,” McPherson said. “We’re a team now.”

For more information

  • There are currently more than 120,000 people in the U.S. awaiting organ transplants.
  • 18-19 people die every day without a needed transplant.
  • Every 10 minutes, a name is added to the transplant list.
  • Register as an organ donor at The online registry is legally binding.
  • More information on organ donation can be found at

Source: Donate Life America

Contact Madison Lozano​ at or 254-501-7552.

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