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Central Iowa woman donates organ to honor late son | 'I'd do it again in a heartbeat'

A woman whose son died of colon cancer decided to honor him by donating her kidney. It was her way of making sure another person had a better quality of life.

OSKALOOSA, Iowa — More than 40,000 organ transplants happened in 2021 according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which is a record year.

Julie Seemann was one of the people who helped contribute to that record. 

She decided to donate her kidney last year to honor her son Alex Seemann, who died of colon cancer in 2020.

Alex died in September 2020, and by February 2021, Julie started researching what the process would be like. 

She said researching what the procedure would be like, watching videos on donating kidneys and speaking with doctors was very helpful.

"It put my mind at ease ... they said the surgery for a kidney wasn't in the back anymore. [The kidney] would be removed through an incision not far above the bikini line," Julie said.

She got her physical done in June 2021 at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics to see if she was eligible to donate her kidney. 

Julie was notified soon after the physical she was going to be able to help someone out and by October, she was undergoing surgery to have the kidney removed.

She does not know the recipient of her kidney donor, but it is a woman from Iowa.

"Again, because I couldn't help my son to have a better quality or quantity of life, to be able to give that to someone else is exciting it's amazing," Julie said. "I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

She was among 48 living donors to donate kidneys at UIHC in 2021. In 2020, there were only 24 living donors.

In 2021, donor transplants were up 14% to 6,541, the United Network for Organ Sharing reports.

Deceased transplants were up 10% over 2020, meaning 13,861 people became deceased organ donors nationwide in 2021, UNOS added.

Julie Schneider, chief development officer for the Iowa Donor Network, said in Iowa, their deceased donor donations have increased for the past four years. 

See the increase in the chart below. 

Credit: Iowa Donor Network

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"Amidst the pandemic and everything that was going on it's quite an achievement," Schneider said. "[This year] we had 128 organ donors who generously gave the gift of life to 365 organ transplants."  

And for anyone thinking of becoming a living organ donor, make sure you are looking up information on trustworthy sites, and speaking with the proper doctors.

"I don't notice any difference in the functioning of my one kidney versus my two kidneys," Julie said.

She also noted the downtime for getting the surgery was not long, and thinks her son would be proud of what she did.

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