Story and Photo by Nick Hytrek | Sioux City Journal
1. What does you job include?
I do hospital development. I cover 23 hospitals in Northwest Iowa and I provide education in donation. We also do record reviews because we're all tied in to Medicare and Medicaid.
2. You encourage people to sign up to be organ and tissue donors?
I do donor awareness, of course, but my role probably isn't as big as our PR staff. I do presentations.
3. How well is the public aware of what they need to do to become a donor?
I don't feel the public is very well-informed. Most of us go to the DMV and get our license and they ask if you're willing to be a donor and you answer it yes or no. I don't think they really understand what they're signing up for. I think we need to do more education.
4. What surprises people the most when you talk to them about organ donation?
I think the amount of people that can be helped through the gift of organ and tissue donation. One organ donor can save up to eight lives and one tissue donor can save or positively impact the lives of 50 to 60 people.
5. What are the most common myths or misconceptions people have about organ donation?
The one probably is that you can recover from brain death and that organs are still being sold to people who can afford them.
6. Are men or women more likely to be a donor?
It seems studies indicate women are more likely to donate than men.
7. What's the most common donation people agree to?
Organ donation is usually easier for people to comprehend than tissue donation. You know right up front lives will be saved, whereas with tissue donation you don't always see results right away.
8. Any guess on the percentage of people who are donors?
We know that in Iowa, approximately two-thirds of residents who are eligible have signed up through the DMV to be donors. Right now there are 1.4 million Iowans who have signed up.
9. How many people would need to be signed up to meet the need?
Right now there are 111,000 people in the United States waiting for donations. In Iowa there are 630 people waiting for organs. Every year in the United States there are 1.5 million procedures done that require tissue grafts. There are millions of people who suffer from corneal blindness who could benefit from corneal transplants.
10. How big a need is there for organ donation?
Every day, 18 people die waiting for an organ transplant across the United States. Annually, around 25,000 organs are recovered for transplant.
11. What conditions would prevent someone from being a donor?
Some things right up front like if you're being treated for active cancer, but you still may be able to donate corneas. Basically every case is looked at on an individual basis.
12. Do you meet with families of accident victims in the hospital to talk to them about possibly donating?
I do meet with the families here.
13. How difficult is it to meet with someone in that situation?
It is the toughest, saddest, most horrible time in their lives. It is a privilege to meet with these people and provide them with this information.
14. How do you approach them?
I go up and let them know I am here to talk to them about donation. By the time I meet with them, they know their loved one has died. I tell them that they have the possibility of helping save the lives of many people and that I am there to help them with the process if this is something they choose to go forward with.
15. What kinds of reactions do you get?
The reactions can be from families who will approach the hospital staff and let them know they know about organ donation to others who say that under no circumstances would they consider it.
16. Have any families ever gotten hostile with you?
17. What percentage of families you meet with in those situations agree to donate their loved one's organs?
At Mercy last year, three-fourths of the families in this situation did agree to go forward with donation.
18. Do you ever get to witness meetings between organ recipients and the donor's family?
I've not actually see reunions, but I have had the pleasure of meeting several recipients, and the gratitude they express for their donors is unbelievable.
19. What's that like for you to meet these people?
It is probably the most humbling experience in your life to know their life may have been saved because of something you may have done.
20. How can one become an organ donor?
You can sign up when you renew your driver's license. You can go to the website, www.iowadonorregistry.org and you can literally sign up for everything there. You can also go to www.iowadonornetwork.org or you can send in a brochure.