The decision to write to your donor’s family is one that is deeply personal and follows no expected timeline. Many transplant recipients choose to reach out to their donor’s family to express their gratitude for making the heroic decision to save lives. Many recipients find that sharing their story with their donor’s family gives them a better understanding of the gift they received and helps them along their healing journey.
Donor families are often genuinely interested in learning about their loved one’s recipients and knowing more about the impact of their decision to donate life. After all, donation is often the silver lining in these families’ loss. Many donor families have shared that communicating with the recipients of their loved ones’ gifts has given them an even deeper understanding of the impact of their decision to save lives.
Sierra Donor Services can assist you in writing a letter to your donor’s family. In this letter, you can offer condolences regarding the loss of their loved one and share how your transplant has impacted you and your family. You can also share more about your hobbies and interests, occupation or year in school, and about your family. We ask that you use only first names and exclude any sensitive information (address, phone number, email address).
Once you’re ready to mail your letter, please place your correspondence in an unsealed, unstamped mailing envelope and give it to your transplant coordinator or social worker. Your letter will then be forwarded to the organ procurement organization, and they will ensure the donor family receives your correspondence. If the donor family chooses to write back, the process outlined above happens in reverse and your transplant coordinator or social worker will contact you if they receive a letter. Please keep in mind this correspondence process can take several months to complete.
Just as making the decision to reach out to your donor’s family has been an emotional journey, it is similar with a donor family as they process through the emotions your letter may stir in them. Donor families may choose to write back and some take longer than others to find the words and put them on paper. If they choose not to write, there may be many reasons why. Often donor families, in processing their grief, cannot find the words to express how they feel.
Recipients and donor families sometimes ask about having the opportunity to meet each other. This is an option to explore after there has been written correspondence by both parties. Once both parties have expressed an interest in meeting each other, your transplant center may communicate your interest with the donor family’s organ procurement organization and may send a release form for you to complete and return. The release form will then be sent to the donor family’s organ procurement organization.