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Letter to donor family (or recipient)

Posted By Pierre Charland     December 15, 2018    


Writing a letter to the donor family is the first step in trying to make contact with and thanking them for the gift of life.  Some patients do it during the first year, some do it later.  It just depends on if the person is “there”.  The donor’s next of kin is the one who would receive it… if it gets to that person.  Here is the deal:  a letter has to change hands many times before it gets to destination.  The letter exchange can go as follow:

  1. Transplant recipient gives it to the transplant coordinator
  2. Transplant coordinator gives it to the social worker
  3. Social worker gives it to the local OPO donor family representative
  4. If donor was outside the region then the letter is sent to that OPO
  5. Then the letter is given to the organ donor family.

This could easily take weeks if not months before it gets to destination.  If it does.  It is much slower than USPS!   Here are the times where the system could break down:

  • One person in the chain loses the letter
  • One person in the chain changes job and does not forward the letter
  • Donor family moved and did not changed their address
  • Donor family not answering calls by OPO
  • Donor family not ready for the letter
  • No donor family alive or available

If you have written a letter and it has been months and have not received an answer, I would at least try a second and maybe a third time but months apart.  It is possible the letter did not make it to destination and in turn you would never receive a reply.  I have seen reunions of donor family and transplant recipients and for a lot of them it brings a closure.  Just do it, you won’t regret.


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  • Bobbiejo Winfrey
    Bobbiejo Winfrey  · December 15, 2018
    I wrote a letter to my donor family around six months or so after my transplant surgery. I have never heard back, but I respect that they decided not to respond. I knew that my organs would have to come from a young person because I was so small in size,...  more
  • Gabe Morales
    Gabe Morales  · December 15, 2018
    I wrote my first thank you letter on my 6 transplante anniversary. One year later I received a letter from my organ donor mom. We keep in contact by phone calls and letters. And on my 12 transplant anniversary we met each other. It was very emotional and...  more
  • Steven Pigott
    Steven Pigott  · December 15, 2018
    I wrote a letter to mine and then I eventually met them. It was a very emotional and satisfying experience for us both.