Local news and information for the Cedar Valley and Black Hawk County, including Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Evansdale, La Porte City, Jesup, Dunkerton, Hudson, Gilbertville, Janesville, Raymond and Elk Run Heights.More >>
Local news and information for the Cedar Valley and Black Hawk County, including Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Evansdale, La Porte City, Jesup, Dunkerton, Hudson, Gilbertville, Janesville, Raymond, Elk Run Heights and the surrounding Black Hawk County area.More >>
WATERLOO (KWWL) -
An emotional meeting Friday in Waterloo as a liver transplant recipient met the organ donor's family for the very first time.
The Iowa Donor Network estimates about half of organ donation recipients meet the family of the donor.
There's a long process involving privacy concerns and grieving families, so it doesn't always work out.
Maggie Schmeiser met her donor's family so she could thank them.
She received a liver transplant in April 2011.
3-and-a-half years later, she finally met the family of the woman who gave her the gift of life.
"I wanted to connect with them and tell them how grateful I was and will always be so I couldn't wait to meet em," said Schmeiser.
So she met with Joey Gase and his sister.
Their mother died of a brain aneurysm.
"It's cool to be able to see your mom live on through them and especially see how thankful they are for your mom's gift," said Gase.
Gase also brought one of his race cars.
He's a big-time NASCAR driver from Cedar Rapids.
He stars in the Nationwide series, while driving in some Sprint Cup races.
While trying to win races, he's also using his high-profile to draw attention to organ donation.
After his mom died, he made the decision for the donation.
"I want people to make that decision before that time comes, as a family, and have people discuss that in their family and even if it's a "no", at least that way you know what your loved one wants," said Gase.
"The issue of organ donation is so important to Gase and his family, he's put his mother's picture on the front of his race car and he's also made dozens of appearances all over the country for organ donation."
"To have somebody like Joey, who's doing more for organ donation than perhaps anyone, he travels to 33 Nationwide races, 4 Sprint Cup events, everywhere he goes he tells his story, he talks to other families, gets people to register as donors, he's saving lives," said Tony Hakes, public outreach manager of the Iowa Donor network.
And Schmeiser is one.
She's now a grandmother and looking forward to another grandchild - while also now having a new lifelong connection to the Gase family.
"I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the decision that they made and so glad they helped," said Schmeiser.
Friday night, Gase signed autographs and appeared at the Waterloo Black Hawks game encouraging people to sign up as organ donors.
The Iowa Donor Network says our state has one of the highest percentages of people registered as organ donors with about 71-72% of people registered.
The Gase family has already met another recipient of Mary Jo Gase's organs.
Jordan Shaw received one of Gase's kidneys.
The family met with Shaw at a Nationwide race in Newton in 2012.