If you owe back taxes or are going through an IRS audit, it probably feels like the biggest problem in your life. But one tax expert–and small business owners–knows from personal experience: Even the biggest challenges can be overcome.
Mike Wallen is the President of Highland Tax Group, Inc. in Denver, Colorado. His company has been in business since August 2013. They provide dedicated tax resolution and audit representation services to business owners and individuals nationwide. Mike helps represent taxpayers before the IRS for appeals, audits and collections.
Mike also has personal experience with surviving and overcoming life-changing challenges: he is the recipient of an organ donation.
In honor of organ donors and the lives they save, February 14th is National Organ Donor Day. Today we are proud to share the story of Mike Wallen and how being an organ transplant recipient motivated him to be successful as an entrepreneur.
From Carefree College Life to Life-changing Illness
Mike Wallen studied at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2001. He learned that he was suffering from severe kidney disease. Kidneys are such powerful organs that most people can survive with only one functioning kidney; but, unfortunately, both of Mike’s kidneys were starting to shut down.
“I started to feel very sick, short of breath, and unable to really get enough rest,” Mike said. “I finally went to the doctor and realized my kidneys were both failing.”
The only treatments for kidney failure are dialysis or an organ transplant. Dialysis treatment can be time-consuming and physically demanding. Receiving a kidney transplant is often a preferable option to help patients lead a full and active life.
Receiving a Kidney Transplant and a Gift of Love
“On October 25, 2001, I went on dialysis and was placed on dialysis for 6 months,” Mike said. “During this time, my father and I were tested to see if we would be compatible for him to donate a kidney to me.”
There is a shortage of kidney donors. Many people who receive a kidney donation are able to have a more compatible match and a more successful transplant if they can get a kidney donation from a living relative. Since people can live healthy lives with only one kidney, donating a kidney can be an ultimate act of love.
Fortunately, Mike was a good candidate for surgery, and compatible as a kidney donor. On March 29, 2002, Mike’s father donated a kidney to his son. The surgery was successful.
“The first few years after the kidney transplant were challenging with the anti-rejection medications,” Mike said. “However, I went on to finish my college degree by December 2003, and after graduation I started my career in the world of tax resolutions and audits, and I’ve been in this profession ever since.”
Finding Inspiration as a Kidney Recipient and Business Owner
Mike Wallen got a new lease on life as a result of his kidney transplant. He believes that getting a kidney from his father has made him a better person and a better business owner. Overcoming his major life challenge has given him added motivation to succeed, help others, and live life to the fullest. He stays physically active as a mountain hiker and cyclist, he’s a passionate fan of his Colorado Buffaloes and Denver Broncos, he has visited 12 other countries, and he’s a volunteer and supporter of the American Transplant Foundation to help other people who need organ transplants.
“I believe that receiving an organ has helped make me humbler and more empathetic in dealing with people who have issues with the IRS,” Mike said. “In a lot of cases, folks have medical issues which caused their tax problem.”
The 18th anniversary of his successful transplant soon approaches, but Mike’s health challenges are not necessarily over. Depending on how things go with his kidney health, he may need another transplant at some point in the future.
“I know that I am on borrowed time, somewhat, and so I make the most of every day,” Mike said. “I am super grateful for my work, my practice, my clients, staff, friends and family. I pour my heart into my business and I really enjoy helping people with the worst problem they’re up against in their lives. I think this is my way of giving back.”
No matter the challenges you face in your business or personal life, Mike Wallen is an inspiring example of how to overcome life’s biggest challenges – with empathy, love, gratitude, and service to others.