SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — A brush with death inspired an Iowa man to start a group dedicated to organ donor awareness and assistance.
Doug Lehman lost one kidney in a hunting accident when he was 15, and diabetes destroyed his other kidney. He was given less than two weeks to live back in 2012 because of kidney failure, but he received a transplant at the University of Nebraska Medical Center after being on the waiting list for three and a half months.
"I had a vision in the hospital to do something to help people," Lehman recalled.
Lehman soon founded the nonprofit, Sioux City-based Doug's Donors. It gives support to patients who need a transplant, helps them get on transplant lists, transports them to medical appointments in Sioux Falls and Omaha and provides information to those interested in becoming a living donor.
The Health Resources and Services Administration reported that more than 123,000 people in the United States are waiting for organ transplants, including nearly 600 in Iowa.
"The numbers continue to far exceed the number of donors," said Mary Ann O'Dell, a donation services specialist for the Iowa Donor Network. "Last year there was approximately 28,000 transplants nationally. That was from 10,000 organ donors."
Lehman said two Siouxland-area residents used to receive a kidney transplant each year on average. This year, he said seven people got new kidneys.
"One gentleman was on dialysis five years. He hadn't talked to his transplant center in two years," he said. "We made a call and seven days later he got a kidney. That was one of the miracle stories there."