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Eastern Iowa man benefits from record-breaking year for organ donors

(KCRG)
Published: Jan. 30, 2020 at 5:46 PM CST
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More Iowans than ever are giving the gift of life through organ donations. 2019 marked the highest number of donors in the state's history.

92 donors statewide gave a total of 290 organs for transplant.

Kevin Clemens was one of the recipients.

"In around November of 2018, I started to get sick. I was getting a little hazy and confused," he said.

After numerous doctor visits and being rushed to the emergency room one day last year, he quickly found out he needed a liver transplant.

"It was that day in Dubuque, the doctor said if you don't get a new liver in 3 months, you have a 75% chance of dying," said Clemens.

Because his case was so serious, he was moved to the top of the transplant list and miraculously got the call a week later.

"It was very quick. Thank God, it was quick," he added. “It’s indescribable. I can look at pictures from the last ten months, you see a lot of things that you wouldn't have got to see."

He's one that benefited from the record-breaking year in 2019 for the Iowa Donor Network.

"Anytime, we see an increase in donors that means more lives being saved and that's our goal," said Heather Butterfield with the Iowa Donor Network.

She says she believes the record number of donors is because of the record number of people who signed up on the registry.

"In 2019, 77% of adults in Iowa 18 and older signed up," she said.

Right now, about 113,000 people in the U.S. are still needing a transplant, 600 of them are in Iowa.

"One of the big reasons we hear why people don't join the donor registry is because they think they're too old or maybe had too many health problems over the years," said Butterfield. "The oldest organ we had in Iowa was 84. The oldest tissue donor we ever had was 105."

She says they hope to keep spreading awareness through different partnerships and volunteers like Clemens who's paying it forward.

"I can't describe what it's done for me," said Clemens. “I can't believe it wouldn't be worthwhile."

She also says Logan's Law has helped add 975 new names to Iowa's donor registry since September of 2019.

If people want to learn more or if they want to register as donors, they can go to Iowadonornetwork.org.