Donate Life Night this Saturday at Upper Iowa Speedway honors organ donation decisions like those of area graduate Erin Rud

Erin Rud ...
Erin Rud ...

by Lissa Blake

It’s a decision no family should ever have to make.

But looking back, the family of the late Erin Rud is glad they did. It’s been just over a year since Erin passed away as the result of a fall from a moving vehicle.

Her mother, Kathy Renk, of rural New Albin, said in the hours afterword, doctors did everything they could to save her. When it became evident that Erin would not survive, Kathy said they started having some hard conversations.

“I remember sitting in the room visiting with Erin’s sister, Emily, and talking about it. I asked Emily if she thought Erin would like to be an organ donor, and she agreed she would,” she said.

After the conversation, Kathy said she left the room to go find her husband, Tom Renk, and Erin’s dad, Jeff, and his wife, Kris, of Spring Grove, MN. What Kathy didn’t know is that the hospital’s organ donation representative had already been visiting with them regarding Erin’s wishes.

“It was amazing. Then I remembered when she got her driver’s license, she had asked me about organ donation (and whether or not to be one). I told her it was her decision, but we never discussed what that decision was,” said Kathy.

Kathy said although her daughter’s dreams of becoming a nurse may have been cut short, she is still helping people after her untimely passing.

“She was a CNA at Thornton Manor in Lansing and was going to college at Viterbo University in La Crosse for nursing. She always wanted to help everyone, and she is continuing to do so through organ donation. It is an amazing thing,” said Kathy.

Kathy said through the Iowa Donor Network, families whose loved ones have donated organs can keep up with the specifics of their loved one’s donations.

“Our daughter was able to help several people with her organs, such as lungs, liver, kidneys, eyes, heart arteries and valves, tissue, bone and skin,” she explained.

Kathy said Erin’s donations have helped people all over the world. “She also is seeing both the east and west coast, as one of her eyes is at each one,” she said.

Recently, Erin’s family received a letter regarding the 60 grafts of bone, skin and tissue they were able to take from Erin for donation, including a bone graft used in the complete reconstruction of the upper right leg of a 28-year-old female from Texas after she had a tumor removed. “So far, she has helped 18 different people with grafts from 17 different states,” Kathy shared.

Erin’s family also was able to meet with the recipient of one of Erin’s kidneys. “We are still receiving letters from other recipients, hoping to possibly be in closer contact with them,” she said.

Kathy added there are so many great things about being an organ donor, and she hopes that more people will learn more about it.

The Iowa Donor Network will be on hand during Donate Life Night this Saturday, June 16 at the Upper Iowa Speedway in Decorah. The Iowa Donor Network will have a booth with information about organ donation and how people can make a difference by registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor. The booth will be set up beginning at 5 p.m. prior to hot laps at 6 p.m. and racing beginning at 6:30 p.m. For more information about organ donation, visit

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.4 (7 votes)