Guidelines and Tips for Writing to Your Donor Family

The process of organ, eye and tissue donation is confidential. Lifeline of Ohio is dedicated to maintaining that confidentiality while recognizing the benefits of communication between a donor family and recipient. Lifeline of Ohio facilitates and encourages written correspondence between the transplant recipient and the donor family. All correspondence is completely anonymous and identities are kept confidential.

Writing to your donor family is a personal decision. Lifeline of Ohio works closely with the families who compassionately enable organ, eye and tissue donation to occur after the death of a loved one, and it may help you to know that they consistently express appreciation for the letters they receive from recipients and their families.

A simple thank you note or card from a recipient or a member of their family can bring great comfort to a grieving donor family. Your words can reassure them that their loved one’s gift has made a difference. As you write your letter, remember that what you say isn’t as important as who the letter is from.

“To a recipient I would say – Don’t worry about finding the right words. The only wrong thing that you could say is nothing. Our grief is real, no words you can write will make it worse – they can only make it better. Speak from your heart. We only wish to know that you are better, that your life has improved, and that you are doing things you couldn’t do before. Those are the words that give us comfort.”

— A Donor Mother

Many people often ask what information they should include in their letter. Here are some helpful ideas:

About Yourself

  • Include only your first name – do not include your last name, address, or phone number.
  • Your job or occupation
  • Your family (spouse, children, grandchildren)
  • Your hobbies or interests
  • Since the religion of the donor’s family is unknown, please consider this when making religious comments.

About Your Transplant Experience

  • Identify what type of transplant you received
  • Use simple language if describing the condition that led to your need for a transplant
  • Explain how the transplant has improved or changed your life
  • Recognize the donor family’s role and thank them for their gift

About What Happened In Your Life

  • Can you participate in activities now that you couldn’t before the transplant?
  • Have you celebrated another birthday?
  • Has there been a marriage or birth in your family?
  • Have you returned to school or pursued a new venture?

Additional Information:

  • You can send a card or a letter
  • Address your correspondence to “Dear Donor Family”
  • On a separate piece of paper write your full name, transplant date, and the type of organ you received – this will allow us to correctly identify the donor family and forward your correspondence
  • Send your card or letter to Lifeline of Ohio, Attn: Bereavement Services Coordinator, 770 Kinnear Rd., Columbus, OH 43212
  • You will receive a note confirming that the letter was forwarded
  • Please communicate in a sensitive manner.
  • Reminder: any information in your correspondence that might breach confidentiality will be taken out.

It is our hope that writing this letter will help not only the donor family, but you as well. In maintaining confidentiality, we cannot provide you any specific information about your donor, but if we can be of assistance to you as you write your letter, please feel free to contact us.

Donor Family and Recipient Meetings:

Many times Lifeline of Ohio is asked if individuals can meet their donor family or recipients. The decision to donate is confidential, and Lifeline of Ohio is dedicated to maintaining that confidence. At the time of donation, the anonymity of the process is explained and the opportunity to meet recipients is not promised. If the mutual desire of both the donor family and recipients is to meet, Lifeline of Ohio does not wish to hinder these wishes.

Several criteria must be met for donor families and recipients to meet:

  • Independent communication between both parties – writing a note, letter or card
  • At least six months has passed since the donation/transplant
  • Donor family and recipients agree that they are open to the request
  • Contact has been made to the Bereavement Services Coordinator at Lifeline of Ohio.
  • Both the donor family and recipient must sign a general release and return it to Lifeline of Ohio.

Once the criteria have been met, information on “Things to Consider” will be provided and Lifeline of Ohio will work to arrange the meeting.