35. How can we thank donors' families?

We can thank donors' families in many different ways. Transplant recipients (or their family members) can send anonymous thank you letters or cards through the local organ procurement organization (OPO) that arranged the donation, if the donor family has indicated that they wish to receive these communications. Many donors' families say that hearing from the recipients of their loved one's organs is the one positive outcome they experience during their grief.

When should you write?

What if it has been a long time since the donation? Should I still write?
Yes! It doesn't matter how long it has been: "Just find a way to say thank you - it means so much to us," said one donor family member.

What if the transplanted organ didn't work, or it was rejected soon after the transplant? Won't it make the donor's family feel bad?
How about just saying thank you for the second chance? The important thing is that the donor gave you a gift, and their family will appreciate hearing from you regardless of what happened afterwards.

I just don't know what to say to this family that's grieving...
If it's hard to find the words, send a "thank you" greeting card.

The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Division of Transplantation at the Health Resources and Services Administration, expresses appreciation to donors by inviting all donors' families (as well as living donors) to the annual National Donor Recognition Ceremony, held in conjunction with a weekend of seminars and sharing sessions organized by the National Donor Family Council. Often held in Washington D.C., or in even years at the venue of the U.S. Transplant Games, the ceremony is a tribute in words, music, prayer, and video. Each donor's name is read as each family receives a "Gift of Life" medal.

Many OPO's also arrange similar local ceremonies for the families of the donors in their area, and some have set up other means of paying tribute to donors and their families, such as local donor quilts, memorial gardens, etc. Contact your local OPO for more information.

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