Saturday, January 27, 2007

Writing to the Donor Family

I have received several questions asking if I was planning to communicate with the donor's family to thank them for their gift. My plan is to write them a letter according to the guidelines provided by the hospital. I will work on that letter this week, and will post it to the blog once I get it completed.

Below is the list of guidelines provided to me by the hospital for writing to the donor family:


The decision to write to the donor family is a very personal one. Sometimes transplant recipients choose to write to donor families to express their gratitude. In response, many donor families have mentioned that a card or a personal note from the recipient offers some comfort. Whether or not you decide to write to the donor family -- it's your choice.

Here is some information you may want to include.

Talk about yourself:

  • Include your first name only.
  • Your job or occupation.
  • Your family situation such as marital status, children or grandchildren. (Do not include last names.)

Talk about your transplant experience:

  • Describe how long you waited for a transplant. (What the Wait list was like for you and your family.)
  • Explain how the transplant has improved your health and changed your life. (Can you participate in activities now that you could not before your transplant?)
  • Explain what has happened in your life since your transplant. (Did you celebrate another birthday? Did your son or daughter marry? Did you become a grandparent? Did you return to school or accept a new job?)

Closing your card or letter:

  • Sign your first name only.
  • Do not reveal your address, city, or phone number.
  • Do not reveal the name or location of the hospital or your physician.

Mailing your card or letter:

  • Send it to your transplant coordinator. The transplant coordinator will forward it to the organ bank. An organ bank coordinator will review it to ensure confidentiality and will then mail your card or letter to the donor family.
  • Place your card or letter in an unsealed envelope.
  • Include a separate piece of paper with your full name and the date of your transplant.
  • Place these items in another envelope and mail them to your transplant center.

You may or may not hear from the donor family. Some donor families have said that writing about their loved one and the decision to donate helps them in their grieving process. Other donor families, even though they are comfortable with their decision to donate, prefer privacy and choose not to write to the transplant recipient.

Remember, the donor's family may still be coping with the loss of their loved one. While you may be celebrating the anniversary of receiving your transplant, it is also the anniversary of someone else's loss. Please ... communicate in a sensitive manner.

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