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University of Iowa News Release

Release: April 11, 2002

Iowa Lions Eye Bank To Host Donor Awareness Events

In a recent press release, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced that the month of April would be observed as National Donate Life Month to help raise public awareness of the critical need for eye, organ, tissue, marrow and blood donation.

"Each April will remind all Americans of their own ability to renew and enhance life through the gift of donation," Thompson stated. His commitment to donation gives donation and transplant organizations more time to sponsor public awareness activities in their communities.

Thousands of people have already recognized the importance of giving the gift of life to others. In 2002, organ transplants numbered 22,741, and more than 46,000 corneal transplants were performed in the United States. An average of 173 transplants were facilitated each month by the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

The need, however, is still enormous. Nearly 81,000 individuals are on the waiting list for organ transplants, and thousands need tissue and corneal transplants. Approximately 30,000 people each year are diagnosed with blood diseases that may be cured by a marrow/blood stem cell transplant. Every day about 32,000 units of blood are needed, yet only about 5 percent of eligible donors give blood on a regular basis.

"As someone whose life was saved by the selfless act of an organ donor, I urge Americans to embrace National Donate Life Month and to participate in honoring those who have donated by following their heroic example," said Stuart L. Brower, president of the Coalition on Donation and vice president of ABC Entertainment.

The Iowa Lions Eye Bank, in recognizing both the need and the opportunity for public awareness and education on "donating life," has announced the development and implementation of a new project in two hospitals in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. This donor awareness project has been made possible with the support and cooperation of the Anatomical Gift Public Awareness Fund. This special fund has been created in the state treasury under the control of the Iowa Department of Public Health, consisting of money collected through contributions made by applicants for registration and renewal of a motor vehicle.

The funds are then distributed in the form of grants to various state agencies, nonprofit entities and hospitals for public awareness projects.

Nursing staff and social workers at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City and Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids play a critical role in the process for eye, organ and tissue donation. They are instrumental in the referral and screening process for donation and provide support to families as they contemplate the donation option for their loved ones. These health care professionals may also have a personal interest in being a donor themselves and therefore will be given the opportunity to gather information about being a donor as well as actually registering on the Iowa Donor Registry. While visiting the Donor Awareness Booth in a lobby area of each participating hospital, through a special invitation from the Iowa Lions Eye Bank, they will be given these special opportunities for education and registration online.

Hospital staff, doctors, students, patients, patient families and visitors who travel through the lobby areas during the specific set-up days will also have access to a variety of eye, organ and tissue donation literature and promotional items. They also will be given the opportunity to register online with the Iowa Donor Registry via a computer with Internet service. Iowa Lions Eye Bank staff will be on site to answer questions, promote donation and assist with the donor registration.

Dates for the Iowa Lions Eye Bank Donor Awareness Booth event have been scheduled for Monday, April 21, in the Main Lobby at the 10th Street entrance to Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids. UI Hospitals and Clinics will host the event on Friday, April 25, in the Atrium Lobby. Exhibit hours for the awareness booth will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at each site.

The Iowa Lions Eye Bank considers this new project a very realistic and practical way to increase donation in Iowa, raise awareness of the donation process in the state and increase the number of registrants on the Iowa Donor Registry.

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room 8798 JPP, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009.

CONTACT: Clancy Champanois, 319-384-9171, Writer: Debra K. O'Meara.