Iowa set record in 2018 for organ donation

DES MOINES — The Iowa Donor Network is celebrating several records set in the last year.

Spokesman Tony Hakes says the numbers for 2018 show a lot of good things. “We had the most number of organ donors we’ve ever had in our 25-year history at 74. We also had the most organs transplanted in our history at 248,” Hakes says. “Those are really great, that means 248 lives were saved. That means that 74 families had a little bit of a bright spot in what was a very dark time for them — losing their loved one.”

He says they also set a mark for people who are signed up to donate. “Seventy-three percent of adults are now registered in Iowa. Which is the highest it’s ever been. It’s good for number nine in the country percentage wise,” according to Hakes. The national average for people signed up to donate is 54%. There are now 1.8 million Iowans registered to donate.

Hakes says the record 248 people shows the importance of signing up. “Of course we get these records because of our donor families, because people are saying yes. They’re realizing that the loss of a loved one doesn’t have to be a complete loss. That they can go on and save other lives and really have that legacy,” Hakes says.

Hakes says the success of the North Liberty-based organization is also due to the relationship they’ve formed with the Iowa Department of Transportation, Department of Public Health, the Iowa Association of County Medical Examiners, the Iowa Hospital Association, and the Iowa EMS Association. He says they have all helped in the successful effort to raise awareness, that begins the education and awareness program early.

“We have a program for driver’s ed, so we start talking to kids at 14 and 15 years old about how they can register and the importance of registering,” Hakes explains. “We also have a wonderful volunteer program. We have over 100 volunteers that are actively taking out message, talking to people, setting up events, reaching out to their local newspapers, radio stations, those things to help promote donation.”   He says they’ve worked to let cut out the misconceptions people may have about organ donation.

“We really stress not letting people rule themselves out because of age or medical history. We tell everyone to register regardless of your age, regardless of you medical history. Because, we’ve had donors over 100 every year — we’ve had donors in their 80s,” Hakes says.

While they’ve set a lot of records, Hake says they want to keep building on that success this year. He says getting everyone to register would be the top goal, but he says they realize they will eventually hit a ceiling. Hakes says they will continue working with their many partners to continue to maintain the momentum for the next few years.

“The easiest thing is to just register,” Hakes says, “so when you go to your driver’s license station to get your license or get it renewed, just mark ‘yes’ and now it’s actually a heart that appears on your drive’s license, so make sure you get that heart place on your license. And also, make sure your family understands and knows your wishes. Have that conversation now — if something were to happen — this is what I want done.”

To find our more about organ donation, go the Iowa Donor Network website at: