Writing to your Donor Family
As a transplant organ recipient, you have received a wonderful gift from someone you will never meet. How do you begin to express your gratitude? Deciding to write is a personal choice. You may send a letter or you may feel more comfortable sending a simple card. Family or friends may also write expressing how your transplant has affected their lives.
It may help to know that many donor families find correspondence from recipients offers them comfort, consolation and often closure. Despite their loss, many families look forward to a letter or card from a recipient.
Maintaining confidentiality—yours and the donor's
All correspondence is anonymous. The identities of the recipient, the donor and both their families are kept confidential out of respect for everyone’s right to personal privacy. For this reason, information that could lead to your identity is not allowed by any donor or transplant program within Canada. Such information includes, but is not limited to:
- First or last names (this includes names of family members)
- Addresses or telephone numbers
- Exact ages—instead you may refer generally to life stages such as child, young adult, middle-aged, etc.
- Locations—this includes specific hospitals, cities and provinces
Even without a name, your message remains one of the most powerful and meaningful acknowledgements a donor’s family could ever receive.
Where do I begin?
Include what you feel comfortable telling the donor’s family about yourself. People care about your experience. You may find the following suggestions helpful:
- Use simple language
- Acknowledge the family’s loss
- Offer condolences and
- Express a thank you
- Describe the experience of waiting for the transplant
- Explain the impact the transplant has had on your life
- Outline significant events that have happened since the transplant
- Share some of your hopes and goals for the future
- Be considerate in that the donor’s family may have different spiritual beliefs than you
- Sign your letter anonymously, i.e., “A Grateful Recipient”.
When should I write?
There is no time limit—you can do it whenever you are ready. Suggestions are:
- Once you are home from your transplant
- On the anniversary date of your transplant
- At the time of any other important milestone in your life
Where do I send my letter?
Place your card or letter in an unsealed envelope. On a separate piece of paper, write your full name, the date of your transplant and your telephone number. Place both in a second, sealed envelope and give it to a nurse in the Transplant Clinic. You may also mail the envelope directly to the Transplant Manitoba-Gift of Life Program.
820 Sherbrook Street
Health Sciences Centre
Winnipeg, MB R3A 1R9
A donor coordinator will review your card or letter to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for both your and the donor family. You will be contacted if changes are necessary.
The Transplant Manitoba-Gift of Life Program forwards each letter to the appropriate provincial donor program, that in turn forwards it to the donor’s family. Please allow several weeks for this process to be completed.
Will I hear from my donor’s family?
Many donor families are overwhelmed with emotion and may have difficulty expressing themselves. Some may respond to your letter, while others may make the choice not to write. Remember that the donor family may still be coping with the loss of their loved one, and people deal with grief in different ways. While you are celebrating your renewed health, your donor family is dealing with their loss.
Having trouble or need advice?
If the right words seem hard to find, or you have any questions or concerns about writing, please contact Transplant Manitoba-Gift of Life and we would be happy to help.