The donation of organs, tissues or eyes can transform the lives of those who receive them, according to Nichole Beauford, community development specialist with Iowa Donor Network, who spoke at Van Diest Medical Center on Thursday.
Beauford discussed how the donation process works, how people can donate, and common misconceptions about organ donation.
In Iowa, 70 percent of adults agree to become organ donors. That number is one of the highest in the nation. However, Beuford said that 603 Iowans are currently waiting for a life-saving transplant, a number that rises to 117,672 when all of the United States is considered.
Nichole Beauford, community development specialist with Iowa Donor Network, discussed how organ donation works and refuted common myths about donation.
"It is our vision that organ and tissue donation is the right decision, and we hope that one day all Iowans will say yes to donation. That will result in fewer people waiting for a transplant," Beauford said.
Iowa Donor Network is a nonprofit organization, and is the state's only federally designated organ procurement and tissue recovery agency. IDN is one of 58 such organizations in the country. As such, IDN receives referrals from hospitals, emergency services, police and other agencies when a person dies and is registered as an organ donor. IDN is also partnered with the Iowa Lions Eye Bank.
While IDN looks for as many donations as it can, there are very specific deatg circumstances that allow for organs to be donated. All donors are either brain dead or dead by cessation of a heart beat before they are eligible to donate. Life-saving organs that are donated include a heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas or portions of intestines. Other life-enhancing tissue donations include bones, skin, adipose, heart valves, connective tissue, or eye corneas.
Beauford said there are many misconceptions about organ donation. It costs no money to donate organs. Donations can be taken from anyone old or young, although persons age 17 or younger must have a parent or guardian co-signer. Beauford said that fears of having organs taken before death are unfounded, as doctors take additional steps to insure that a donor is dead before their organs are transplanted. She also explained that the waiting list for a transplant is based on medical need, not money or celebrity status.
The Iowa Donor Network can facilitate contact between the family of an organ donor and the recipient of the donation. The network also awards a medal to families of donors.
While saying yes to donation on a driver's license is enough to give legal consent for a transplant, potential donors can also offer their organs for other purposes, including research. Those who are registered donors can change their status for such donations online at iowadonorregistry.org.