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JK (@contentandwell)

Writing to Your Donor's Family.

Transplants | Last Active: May 23, 2021 | Replies (44)

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@rosemarya @contentandwell this is something we will need to start in the coming weeks. We both want to write to the family, but know it's going to be tough to put into words how thankful we are for this previous gift. I like the idea of writing a letter and then going back and making changes over time. My husband says he would like to actually meet the family sometime; I'm not sure what I think about doing that. Either of us could change our minds. Thank you for this post!

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Replies to "@rosemarya @contentandwell this is something we will need to start in the coming weeks. We both..."

@jodeej I was given given a very good guideline for writing it, if you don’t have one I would be glad to scan it in and attach it.
As I mentioned, the person at the hospital did indicate that it is often best to wait a little while.
Also as I mentioned, I am afraid I would be too overwhelmed with emotion if I met the donor family, but I know many people do. Of course more than likely there were many families who also were given a new chance to live thanks to the donor and that person’s family.

@contentandwell the social worker at Mayo gave us a packet of information that included a pamphlet on what to write. We are possibly going to wait a few weeks yet to write. It's such an emotional letter.
Thank you,

My husband had his kidney transplant on 1 October 2016. He waited until his one year anniversary to write a thank you letter. His transplant surgeon at Scripps Green Institute in La Jolla [CA] was pleased with what he wrote. We have not heard back and may never, which disappoints him. We have decided to have a window decal made to thank his donor, along the lines of the ones you see that say "in loving memory of…", so we can honor again the gift of this kidney. By the way, we named the kidney "Kermit", which is an Irish name meaning "free man", as he is now free of dialysis.

@gingerw I love the name! I didn’t choose a name for my liver based on anything other than wanting it to be gender-neutral, so I named it “Hank”.
I hope your husband does eventually hear back but if not it’s probably too painful for the donor’s family.

@contentandwell – well, my husband will tell you I always name things, from cars to sewing machines! So, it seemed right to name his new kidney. We do know the donor was male.

@jodeej you may want to wait even longer than a few weeks. The grief is still so fresh now. I can’t even think how difficult this must be, particularly if the death was unexpected.

I have taken part in the Annual Organ Donor Recognition Events in Kentucky where I live. I was invited as a recipient to be available to honor and to comfort and to talk to the donor families who had been touched by organ donation within that year.
I remember meeting a couple whose adult son had been a donor. They shared that they had received a letter from the person who had received his heart. And they told me how much that meant to them – that their son's life and his sudden death had a purpose. They were deeply touched at the expression of sympathy and about learning a little about the person who now lives as a result.
I sat with them throughout the ceremony and for refreshments. I shared my own story about my transplant experience, and about my difficulty writing to my donor. When I shared that I had received a letter from my donor's family, the wife said, "I never even thought of that."
Several months later, she tracked my down, and sent me a letter that expressed her thanks. She told me that by writing that response to the recipient, she now felt peace.

Has anyone else had any similar experience?

@rosemarya @contentandwell we attended the transplant family picnic at Mayo while we were there. It is for recipients and donors. I'm unsure if there were any families of deceased donors there, though.

@jodeej I suppose it should be up to the donor family if they wanted to participate in something like that.
I honestly don’t know what I would feel if I was in that position.

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