MUSCATINE, Iowa – Lifelong Muscatine resident Doug Stewart had an incredible story. In June of 2000, Stewart became ill and learned he needed a liver transplant to survive. He received one in November of that year. His body rejected the transplant, and he found himself wheelchair bound. Then, he received a second transplant and received a new lease on life.
For the next sixteen years, Stewart and his family became tireless advocates for organ donation. They joined Team Iowa, a group that participates in the Transplant Games every two years, when transplant recipients and donors get to compete in Olympic style games and spend quality time together. Stewart also got involved in Team Iowa’s local golf fundraiser and spoke about organ donation at events near and far whenever anyone asked him to. In 2017, Stewart passed away from sudden liver failure. At the time, he donated his eyes, passing on the gift of life to other people in need of a transplant.
In 2019, Stewart’s son, Alex, learned that each year, Donate Life, an organization that promotes organ donation, has a float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California that features images of organ donors created out of flowers. Alex submitted his father’s story for consideration and later learned that Donate Life had chosen to honor his father with a floragraph.
Last week, Stewart’s family had the opportunity to travel to Pasadena to see the float, help decorate it, and meet other families who had a loved one honored on it. “The experience has been amazing!” said Stewart’s wife, Yazmin. “People from all over the country (were there) telling their stories and hugging and crying. It’s been very emotional and uplifting,” she added.
To make the experience even more meaningful, Stewart’s family got to see the float win the judge’s choice award, bringing attention from around the nation to the float, to the importance of organ donation, and to Stewart’s story.
Through sharing Stewart’s story and by honoring him at the Rose Parade, his family hopes to continue raising awareness about the need for organ donation and the importance of becoming a donor. “I would encourage people to donate because it truly is the gift of life,” shared Yazmin. “We had Doug for 16 more years than we would have without it. I miss him every day but am so grateful to our donor (families) for saying yes.”