We read and hear a great deal about the shortage of organs, incredible stories about “nick-of-time” transplants, multiple transplants and innovations in transplantation but we don’t hear much about the donors who make this all possible. Being an organ donor is one of the most unselfish, compassionate and noble gestures one can make. It is particularly noble because in most cases the donor will not be around to hear the praise and thanks. Paying tribute to donors and their families is one of the most important things we can do. These mostly anonymous people deserve to be in our thoughts and prayers every minute of every day.
As you know I am a heart transplant recipient, I only know that my donor was a 30 year old male from South Carolina, nothing more. I have written to the donor family expressing my gratitude but, like many donor families, they have chosen to remain anonymous. There are many more, however, who choose to be public about their experience and how we support and honor them is the subject of this blog.
Prior to my retirement I was honored to have as a client, LifeSource, an organ procurement organization (OPO) that serves Minnesota, the Dakotas and part of Wisconsin. They were not only a valued client but also became dear, dear friends. Rebecca (Becky) Ousley is one of the many dedicated people who help to further the LifeSource mission. Like most OPOs LifeSource does a wonderful job of promoting organ donation and coordinating transplants. But they are so much more than that, they offer heart felt support to the living, too, especially donor families. Below is a reprint of their latest blog. Please read and comment either to this blog or directly to LifeSource at http://www.life-source.org/
From “The Source” by Becky Ousley, LifeSource
One of the things I find remarkable about the work we do at LifeSource is the extent to which we are committed to supporting donor families, both at the time of donation and for years afterward. Donor families are the cornerstone of the work that we do – without them there would be no transplants. It is an incredibly generous gift.
I’m always so excited to tell people about this, as many people don’t realize that donor families receive this kind of support in the months and years following donation. At LifeSource donor families are part of our aftercare program for as long as they wish; we have some families that have been coming to our events for nearly 20 years! In addition to receiving support and remembering their loved ones, these long time donor families are also able to provide hope and perspective to our families that are more newly bereaved. That too, is a wonderful gift.
Part of our aftercare program involves facilitating letters between transplant recipients and donor family members. Either party can write to the other; often, recipients want a chance to say thank you for their gift of life or donor family members may want to share memories about their loved ones. Donor families and recipients can request to have direct contact with one another and, sometimes, they even meet. These are often very rewarding relationships.
This was the case today, when I was honored to attend a donor family and recipient meeting with my colleague Jill, whose job it is to support these families. She connected this pair after some persistent detective work, as the donation and transplant took place more than 40 years ago in 1966! It was an incredible meeting and I think we were all touched when Steve, the kidney recipient, immediately hugged the donor’s sister and told her he had been waiting for 43 years to give her that hug.