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2-time kidney recipient: A southeast Iowa woman shares her story

2-time kidney recipient: A southeast Iowa woman shares her story
2-time kidney recipient: A southeast Iowa woman shares her story
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Thousands nationwide and hundreds in the Hawkeye State are waiting for organs or tissues that would drastically change their lives.

The Iowa Donor Network is a crucial resource for donors, their families and recipients.

We spoke with both a two-time kidney recipient and the Iowa Donor Network to hear how the organization is impacting lives in the Heartland and beyond.

On average, 17 people die each day while waiting for life-saving organs and tissues according to the Iowa Donor Network.

The network strives to help those in need by facilitating the recovery of organs and by being a primary contact for donors and recipients.

Jazmine Clark spoke with Heather Butterfield, the network's director of Strategic Communications, to learn more about how they are helping Iowans.

"Iowa Donor network is the only nonprofit organ and tissue recovery agency," Butterfield said. "So what that means is we coordinate the organ and tissue recovery process. When someone passes away, we receive a phone call notifying us that the person has passed away. If they're eligible to be a donor, we collaborate with our healthcare partners, which includes hospitals, paramedics and medical examiners to then make a donation happen. So really, Iowa Donor Network.... our mission is to work together to transform lives, through organ and tissue donation."

One of the many lives the Iowa Donor Network has positively affected is Iowa native Deb Breckenridge.

"I was fortunate to receive a kidney transplant in 1984," Breckenridge shared. "That was a 19-year-old male motorcycle accident victim who died the Friday night before Mother's Day. I received my call for the organ on Mother's Day actually."

Breckenridge went on to share what it felt like getting a new chance at life although it meant a life was lost.

"When you find out that you can have it, I mean, it is just overwhelming and it's, it's overwhelming that you're so grateful," Breckenridge shared. "It's also the fact that there's a sadness because that something catastrophic, horrific happened to someone that you know, that by their gifting is going to make a difference to better your health."

When it comes to how long the kidney lasted and how long the wait was for a new one Breckenridge stated, "I was very fortunate because that non-related cadaver kidney functions for 32 years, and then it failed in 2016 I went back on dialysis and did it for two years. But then in December of 2018, I received a second kidney The difference being it was a six-week wait for the first one in the 80's, it was a six-year wait for the second one in 2008."

After reading Breckenridge's story you may be wondering if you're able to be a donor. Butterfield shares why you should never rule yourself out if you are interested.

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"We always say that anyone of any age can donate life, so we encourage everyone to sign up on the registry," Butterfield stated. "And then when the time comes after someone passes away, we evaluate them to see if they are medically suitable for donation. A lot of people are surprised. They think at some point if they're too old or they're too sick to be a donor. The reality is our oldest tissue donor, I believe, was 106 years old. The oldest organ donor in the United States was over 90 years old. So age is not necessarily a factor in even how there are sometimes people with very long, complicated medical history that are still able to be donors, even someone with cancer. While they may not be able to be an organ donor, they may be able to donate their corneas and different things to someone else. So we encourage people, never rule yourself out because of age or medical history."

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