Nurse encourages all to register as donors during National Donate Life Month

Morgan Atwood photo
Morgan Atwood, RN, encourages everyone to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors.

It’s the saddest day for one family; the happiest day for another.

“I want the families of dying patients to know just how much we appreciate their gift of organ donation,” Morgan Atwood, RN, a staff nurse in the Surgical and Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (SNICU). “Our sick patients are waiting every single day for that gift of life.”

When families are grieving the loss of a loved one, Atwood sees their pain.

“They're willing to make this decision to move forward give life to other people,” she says. “I want to say thank you to them and to the people who are considering organ donation after they've passed.”

Full circle

April is National Donate Life Month, a time to encourage everyone to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors.

“I’ve seen families who chose organ donation experience a sense of peace,” says Atwood. “They know the death of their loved one provided life to many other people.”

Atwood sees both sides of organ donation, she experiences the full circle: the donors and the recipients. It’s from that unique perspective that she urges everyone to consider organ donation.

“If you're thinking about organ donation, please go ahead and do it,” she says. “Just mark that box on your driver’s license or register to be a donor because doing so will help save lives.”

UI Hospitals & Clinics had a record number of organ and tissue donors in 2020: 34 organ donors and 80 tissue donors.

As of March, there are 107,938 people nationally waiting for an organ. In Iowa, there are 577 individuals; 499 of whom are waiting for a kidney.

Donors by the numbers

organ donors
tissue donors
Iowans waiting

Remembering every patient

Atwood and her team form close-knit relationships with their transplant patients.

“It’s amazing to see them a year later, that same person who was very ill and fighting for their life come to our unit and say, ‘Hey, look how great I'm doing,’" she says.

Atwood says she would never be able to do her job without the help of the Iowa Donor Network and their amazing nurses, doctors, and social workers.

“I remember every single family member and every single patient that I've cared for with organ donation,” says Atwood. “Every single one was so unique and heartbreaking, each of them so special.”