UIHC celebrates 'Donate Life' month


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A young boy with copper-colored hair and wide and curious brown eyes wiggles around a spacious room, while a man speaks to a crowd of people about organ donation. The little boy, Mason Zenner, might understand more about organ donation than the average preschooler — he received a heart transplant when he was 6 months old.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics held an event, “Donate Life,” about organ donations Tuesday afternoon involving UI doctors and the Iowa Donor Network, and families shared their personal stories.

“There are a lot of misconceptions with organ donating,” said Amanda Zenner, Mason’s mother. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, what medications you’re taking. Because of [donors], they saved [Mason’s] life. He would have spent his life in the hospital, and we would have spent a life without him.”

Mason was born with a heart condition that causes his heart “not to beat like most people” but to “shake.” Mason was put on the organ donor list two days after he was born and received a match six months later. He is now a healthy child who likes Star Wars and football. His true interest, though, lies with Hawkeye athletics.

“On the way here, we got to see the Hawkeye,” Mason said, as a wide smile spread across his face. “I like to play football — with a Hawkeye football.”

Mason is an example of successful organ donations, but the Donate Life event also spotlighted the Brockway family who dealt with organ donation in a different light; after their 10-year-old son, Garrett, died, his parents decided to donate his organs for others.

“Our son was involved in a tragic accident, and when we realized he wasn’t going to make it, we asked, ‘If he can’t be saved, who can we save?’ ” said Bruce Brockway, Garrett’s father. “He was just a very giving child and we knew he would want this.”

Garrett’s mother, Tiffini Brockway, said that although it was a negative situation, there was a positive side effect.

“He saved five people,” she said. “This was the most tragic situation. It’s every parent’s nightmare to lose their child, but we wanted to keep our heads held high. [Organ donating] has been a positive event in a horrible situation.”

The UIHC commemorated the 2012 Medal of Honor from the U.S. Department of Health they received last fall, due to exceeding the national average of organ donations. April is “Donate Life” month — encouraging the public to register for organ donations.

The UIHC has performed 3,293 transplants since 1988, when organ transplants became popular. Nationally, 2,313 donations were made in 2013.

The UIHC works closely with the Iowa Donor Network to ensure donations like Garrett and Mason’s occur as often as possible.

Tony Hakes, a spokesman for the Iowa Donor Network, said Iowa has one of the highest numbers of donor registrants, despite the misconceptions commonly associated with organ donating.

“We have over two-thirds of Iowa registered to donate,” Hakes said. “Iowans are very good at taking care of each other. Typically, Iowa is a very generous state.”

Although many people assume they do not believe they are healthy, donating organs can be costly, or even that it may prevent the organ donor registrant from being resuscitated if an accident ever occurred, Hakes said this is all not true.

Tiffini Brockway said that when it comes to the decision of whether or not to register to donate organs, the choice is obvious.

“If they were put in a situation where their life was on the line, what would they want?” she said. “They would want a donor. When you leave the Earth, that body isn’t going to go with you. It saves lives.”

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