MUSCATINE, Iowa–For Yazmin Stewart, Donate Life Day, which celebrates the importance of organ donation April 16, holds a very special meaning. Her late husband, Doug Stewart had benefited from an organ donation and passionately advocated others to join the organ donor registry to help more people awaiting transplants. “Doug was a very healthy 36-year-old until one day he wasn’t,” Yazmin Stewart shared. “Because of one unknown hero and a very special family in Ankeny that said yes when they were asked if they would donate, my children and I were able to have 16 more years with Doug, and for that we will be forever grateful.”
For years, Doug Stewart encouraged his family and friends to wear blue and green on Donate Life Day. He proudly shared information about organ donation with anyone curious about the blue and green outfits they saw around town. Wanting to spread this tradition throughout the Muscatine Community and raise more awareness about the need for organ donation, Yazmin Stewart contacted Muscatine Power & Water to request they light the Norbert F. Beckey bridge in blue and green the evening of April 16. She also reached out to her friends, Alma Brunson and Rachel Reed for help, as both women have an interest in promoting organ donation too.
Organ donation has made a difference in Brunson’s life on several occasions. She explained: “We are a donor family. We found comfort knowing even after her death, our daughter continued helping others. My brother-in-law was an organ recipient. After a liver transplant, he enjoyed several more years with his family. My nephew is on the transplant list.”
Reed, Brunson’s niece, continues to wait for her husband to receive a kidney transplant. Seeing how he will benefit and how many other people also need organ donations inspired her to help raise awareness:” My husband became unexpectedly ill when he was just 23,” she said. “His team of doctors has always hoped to find him a living donor to avoid having to go on dialysis.”
With Donate Life Day coming up this Friday, Brunson, Reed, and Stewart have many suggestions for celebrating. Along with wearing blue and green, they encourage people to join the organ and tissue donation registry at http://www.iowadonornetwork.org/register, donate money to the organization, put a green light on their porch, participate in any of the activities on the Iowa Donor Network’s kindness calendar, and to post photos of themselves doing these activities on social media with the hashtags #donatelife, #inspireiowa, #bluegreenday, and #lightupforlife.
Whatever you can do to support Donate Life Day, Brunson, Reed, and Stewart encourage you to do so. “One organ donor can save eight lives!” stressed Reed: “Every nine minutes, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list. There are currently 107,949 people in need of a lifesaving organ transplant. 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant, and only three in every 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation. Increasing the number of registered donors increases the chance that more donations can happen.”