Several events are scheduled across Iowa this April as part of “National Donate Life Month.” Iowa Donor Network spokesman Tony Hakes says the events will focus on everyone involved in organ donation and transplants.
“The entire month is set aside for everyone in America really to reflect about donation, to honor donors and donor families, a change for recipients to thank their families. And we just do that by partnering with hospitals, medical examiners, EMS services, law enforcement, pretty much all these professional partners throughout the state,” Hakes says.
He says the publicity about the need for donors has helped them make progress. “At the end of last year we reached a five-year low on the number of people waiting for a transplant in Iowa. And it looks like we’ve got more people signing up, registering as donors each month, each year,” Hakes says. “So, it’s definitely helped, it’s definitely saved lives, impacted lives, enhanced lives.”
While more people are signing up to donate, there’s still a waiting list for those needing a transplant. “Well in Iowa it’s anywhere from 550 to 600, and of course, one is too many. But Iowa is a pretty good place to have transplants and get listed,”according to Hakes. “Nationally, there’s anywhere from 120 to 125,000 waiting at any given time.”
He says they’d like to continue improving on the progress made in getting more people to donate. “We really feel that this is a solvable problem and we just need everyone to register as a donor — make sure their family knows and understands their wishes — and we think that we can take that wait list down to zero,” Hakes says.
It doesn’t take long for you to sign up. “Registering as a donor in Iowa is incredibly easy. Pretty much you can mark yes on your driver’s license and just make sure your family knows and understands your wishes. You doe those two things and you are all set,” Hakes explains. “If someone doesn’t want to wait until they renew their license — or they maybe don’t have a license or ID — they can go to www.ioadonornetwork.org and register on-line. Again, once you register on-line, you are good and you don’t have to do anything else other than let your family know your wishes.”
Hake says being an organ donor can allow you to have a big impact on a lot of people. “One person can save up to eight people’s lives through organ donations, and enhance up to 50 to maybe even 100 through tissue donation, when you start talking about donating skin, bones, ligaments veins, tendons, those types of things,” Hakes says. The Iowa Donor Network helped transplant 216 life-saving organs in 2014, and recovered tissue from 982 donors.