Gift of life celebrated at organ donation ceremony at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

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IOWA CITY – A family Audie Brown just met has allowed him to plan his wedding and everything else in his future.

Brown, 48, of Burlington, thanked the Sieghartner family publicly at a ceremony Friday, April 8, just moments after meeting them for the first time.

Steve Sieghartner, 15, who died Dec. 25, 2009, from injuries suffered in a car accident, was the heart donor for Brown, who had been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – deterioration of the heart muscle – in 1997.

“There was no recourse for me except a transplant,” said Brown, a former Motorola employee who hopes to work again soon.

In the meantime, he is planning his Sept. 10 wedding to fiancé Karrie Douthart of Burlington, who accompanied Brown to Friday’s ceremony at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The hospital received a silver Medal of Honor from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for meeting national goals for consent rates, donation after cardiac death and number of organs transplanted per donor.

“It’s astounding to see what can be done,” UI President Sally Mason said during the event. “Nothing can be more powerful than giving life to others.”

She noted that the hospital will seek a gold medal with new, higher numbers.

“For surgeons, transplants are the only operation that affects us with a roller coaster of emotions,” said Dr. Mark Iannettoni, director of cardiothoracic surgery, describing the gamut experienced by the donor family to the new life given the recipient.

Morgan Sladek, 17, an Iowa City City High junior, recalled her family’s decision to donate the organs of her father, Steve Sladek, 43, who died after a brain aneurism in 2009.

“I guess you never know how much a parent means to you until you lose them,” she said.

His liver, kidneys and heart valves saved several lives, said Susan Witte, the hospital’s family support program coordinator.

With his new heart, Brown said he will spend his life advocating for organ donation.

Steve Sieghartner, a high school wrestler from Andalusia, Ill., was delivering Christmas gifts when the accident occurred, said his sister, Sonya Sieghartner, 22, of Rock Island, Ill.

Their mother, Linda Sieghartner of Andalusia, said her son had discussed organ donation just weeks before the accident.

Though nothing could replace her son, she said, meeting Brown reinforced their decision to donate.

“It was an honor to meet him,” she said.

For information on organ donation, see:

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