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Giving the Gift of Life
By Lisa M. Jones
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learn more. For more information on transplantation and organ
donation, please visit transplantservices.





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Transplantation has become one of the miracles of modern medicine. Thousands of people benefit each year from transplant surgery. While the success stories are many and varied, one constant holds true—the gift of organ donation. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, organ donors made more than 28,000 transplants
possible last year alone. At the same time, another 1 million
people received cornea and other tissue transplants that helped them recover from vision loss, trauma, bone damage, spinal injuries, burns, and hearing impairment. The gift of organ,
tissue, and eye donation is immeasurable.

According to the Iowa Donor Network, 602 Iowans
were awaiting organs for transplantation at the end of 2010;
nationally more than 110,000 Americans were on active waiting lists. Unfortunately the need for organs, tissue, and corneas far outweighs what is available for transplantation. An average of 18 people waiting for a donated organ die each day in the United States.

Most everyone supports the idea of organ, eye, and
tissue donation—91 percent of adults, according to recent research by Donate Life America. Statistics show, however,
that only one in three people have taken steps to assure
their wishes to be an organ donor are made known.
In Iowa, the process is simple and takes only a
few minutes:
• Sign up online in the Iowa Donor Registry
• Sign up at the Motor Vehicle Division when you apply for
  or renew your driver’s license by filling out an Iowa Donor
  Registry brochure

It is that easy to take a few moments to become an organ donor and make your wishes known. Your efforts can make a huge impact on someone’s life and turn what otherwise might be a tragedy into a celebration of life and giving.

A Donor’s Perspective
Erika Desireé Schwager was a junior at Des Moines Christian High School. She lit up a room with her bright brown eyes, her endless energy, and her contagious laugh. On November 20, 2006, Erika was in an auto-fire truck collision. Despite the tremendous efforts of many, she died six days later, immediately giving four other people a second chance at life. 
Shortly before the accident, Erika was so excited when she passed her driving test and announced she had signed up to be an organ donor. While we were both a bit conflicted, her father and I facilitated her desires after the accident; she was able to donate both of her kidneys, her liver, pancreas, bones, tissue, skin, and heart valves. In addition to saving four lives, she was also able to help five people walk again.

Erika’s favorite quote was “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” She was just 16 years old when she died. She will be remembered by the many lives she touched in her life and also in her death.

By Bette Schwager, Erika’s mother

An Organ Recipient’s Persepective
I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure in 1963. At the time, my parents were told I would probably not live to the age of 19. In 1972 I was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease and started on dialysis three days a week for six to eight hours each time to have the toxins taken out of my blood. 

In 1973 I received the gift of a kidney from a deceased donor and spent the next 10 years making the most of my new life. In 1983 the kidney failed and I went back on dialysis, this time dialyzing three days a week for four hours. How much better that seemed than six to eight hours like in the past. 

On December 1, 1983, my brother, Stuart, gave me my second “gift of life.” Now, after 26 years, my second kidney is failing and I am currently on the list for a third transplant. 

Due to receiving the “gift of life” twice, once from a deceased donor and once from a living donor, I am able to work full-time and serve as president of the National Kidney Foundation of Iowa. Thanks to the generosity of my donors, I have also been able to live a full life and watch my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren grow.  How wonderful it is to be a part of their lives!

By Ardy Boucher, recipient





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