Iowans in Rose Parade

Published: Jan. 1, 2019 at 9:28 AM CST
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Iowans had two connections to the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade, one on each end of organ donation.

Steve Shank received a double lung transplant 2 years ago to stave off lung failure from a rare genetic condition. He'll represent the Mayo Clinic as part of the Donate Life float during the Rose Parade.

On that same float will be the face of a Cedar Rapids teenager. Senquez Jackson was 15 years-old when he was shot and killed. He donated his organs and saved the lives of strangers he never met.

Jackson's family helped decorate a flora likeness of Senquez through the Iowa Donor Network. That portrait was on the side of the float during the Rose Parade along with the faces of other organ donors.

Here is Steve's full story from Donate Life:

Today, Steve Shank is borrowing every breath from his generous organ donor, Tommy. Due to his heroic decision to share his organs, Steve is celebrating two years as a grateful recipient of his life-saving gift.

Growing up as a tough little football-loving Hawkeye from Iowa City, IA, Steve was born with big dreams to participate in the Rose Parade. This opportunity to be a Mayo Clinic patient representative on the Donate Life Rose Parade float aligns with the family’s mission to revel in every bonus day, raise awareness for organ donation and his disease, Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS). Steve is accompanied by his loudest supporters, his two children and wife.

Steve has an extremely rare genetic mutation HPS. The condition is associated with many problems, including albinism, eye problems and bleeding disorders. In Steve’s case, it resulted in lung problems. In less than a year’s time, Steve went from shortness of breath symptoms, to total lung failure.

True to form, Steve faced the crisis head on; after all, no obstacle ever stopped him before. He was born with low vision, but he still downhill ski raced as a kid and mountain biked as a young man. Steve’s lifetime of hurdles prepared him to make the biggest comeback of his life — surviving the 79-day turbulent hospital stay and 35 days on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), the “ICU life support & bridge to transplant.” He fought each day for life.

With faith in God, his altruistic donor, Tommy, and the Mayo Clinic’s multidisciplinary team, Steve’s persistence paid off. On October 23, 2016, he received the lifesaving gift of a double lung transplant at age 40.

Celebrating two years with Tommy’s gift, the Shank family has never adventured more. A ski trip to the mountains of Colorado, Times Square, camping endeavors, long bike rides and time together are sweet. Every day is a gift and it is a nice headspace to be in while working through the daily grind of 4th grade math homework or being present for a family night around a bonfire.

Today, Steve and his wife volunteer as Donate Life Ambassadors, to share their story of donation and raise awareness for HPS. They are humbled to be a part of this event that reaches so many as Steve continues to honor Tommy’s gift, love his family and share this story to encourage others to say YES to organ, eye and tissue donation.