Iowa Teen’s Organ And Tissues Help 194 People: Why Organ Donations Matter Today More Than Ever


A year and three months after his death, Drew Lienemann has helped 194 people who received his organs and tissues. The Iowa teenager committed suicide in January 2016, but his decision to be an organ donor helped save the lives of two people who were in great danger.

Drew was a senior at Waukee High School when he died. He was an honor student who had been offered track scholarships from different colleges. The adolescent was liked by his peers and was involved in many social activities. He was the captain of the football team and also played basketball and baseball.

Teen Organ And Tissue Donor Saved 194 Lives

Drew's bones and connective tissues helped the lives of 181 people around the globe, while his skin assisted nine post-mastectomy breast reconstruction surgeries.

"He impacted so many people in his short life, and has helped even more in his death," noted Dan Lienemann, the boy's father, during a ceremony honoring Drew and other Iowa organ donors.

During the ceremony hosted by Mercy Medical Center and the Iowa Donor Network, Wanda Lienemann, the boy's mother, read the words of gratitude from the man who received one of Drew's kidneys. Although the patient's wish was to remain anonymous, his letter was touching.

"I wanted to thank you for giving me an opportunity to continue living my life and to be around my family for more years to come. I no longer live life with negativity and frustration, but with hope and love. I am now able to continue forward with life and await for great things to come," the letter noted.

Not all organ donors are deceased. The ceremony also honored living organ donors who accounted for one in every five organ donations in 2015.

Living Organ Donors

There are also those who decide to become donors while still alive. One such example is the former mayor of East Haven, April Capone, who had come across a person who needed a kidney transplant, back in 2009. While scrolling on her Facebook feed, a man's call for donors caught her attention.

She immediately decided to help the member of her community in a way that no job description can cover. The surgery was successful and the patient has recovered since then.

"My message for the past seven years since becoming a living organ donor is to open your mind to the possibility of living organ donation," Capone noted.

According to the U.S. Government Information on Organ Donation and Transplantation, while most of the organ and tissue donations occur after the donor has died, some organs and tissues can be donated while the donor is alive. Approximately 6,000 living donations occur every year, which accounts for roughly four out of 10 donations.

The living organ donors can potentially donate one of the two kidneys, one of the two lobes in their livers, a lung or part of a lung, part of the pancreas or part of the intestines. None of these donations is, in itself, deadly to the donors, but they can have a very powerful effect on the recovery of critically ill patients.

"Most living donations happen among family members or between close friends. Some people become altruistic living donors by choosing to donate to someone they don't know," notes the website.

However, the Federal government also warns potential donors concerning the possible effects of their good deeds.

"Because we don't know what the short-term and long-term effects to the donor will be, the Federal government does not actively encourage anyone to be a living donor," warns the website.

Organ Donation And Social Responsibility

While there is no conclusive data on the long-term effects of living organ donors, the fact remains that a high number of people need organ transplants.

According to a U.S. Government Information on Organ Donation and Transplantation data sheet, 30,970 transplants were performed in 2015 alone. At the same time, more than 119,000 people across the country are on transplant waiting lists.

An increased number of organ donors could help decrease the number of deaths that occur due to the shortage of donors. Although 95 percent of the adults in the United States are in favor of organ donation, only 48 percent are actually signed up as donors.

At the same time, 22 people die every day waiting for a transplant, and every 10 minutes another person is added to the waiting list.

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