Corresponding with Recipients
Donor Alliance encourages communication between the families of donors and transplant recipients. Many families find comfort in writing to the people their loved one helped, and making the decision to reach out to your loved one’s recipients is a very personal decision.*
Suggestions for What to Include in Your Letter
Start by addressing your message to the recipient. This can be specific or general, examples are below.
-To my mother’s heart recipient
-Dear lung recipient
What you include is up to you, and your message can be brief. A recipient knows very little about their donor. Sharing your loved one’s first name, and your relationship to them can be meaningful to the recipient. Recipients are often interested to know what their donor was like, what their occupation was, and what hobbies they enjoyed. You can also share if you have thought of the recipient, share sentiments of continued heath, and express an interest in hearing from them or communicating directly. Examples of possible statements to include are below.
-My name is Samantha, and you received my brother Charlie’s heart. My brother would be pleased to know that he helped you.
-My mother, Maya, was a wonderful woman. She enjoyed being outdoors and her favorite food was chocolate chip cookies.
-I hope my daughter’s gift has made a difference in your life and I wish you continued health.
-I would love to one day meet you, to learn more about you, and to tell you more about the person that my husband was.
-It would be an incredible gift to hear from you, even once. Would you please consider sending a response?
In closing your letter, you can sign your name, note your relationship to your loved one, or if you wish to remain anonymous, consider signing your letter as “Your Donor’s Family.”
-Your Donor’s Wife
-Your Donor's Family
Frequently Asked Questions
Many families find comfort in writing to the people their loved one helped, and making the decision to reach out to your loved one’s recipients is a very personal decision. Below are some frequently asked questions about the correspondence process. If you have a question that is not answered here, or if you would like to discuss anything in more detail, please reach out to our Aftercare team at (303) 370-2737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your loved one donated organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas), you may write to the organ recipient(s) first and at any time. You do not need to wait for the recipient to reach out first.
If your loved one donated tissues (bone, soft tissue, heart valves, veins, skin grafts), the tissue recipient(s) must write to you first. Donor Alliance is not provided with specific tissue recipient information, which means we do not have a way of sending a letter to a tissue recipient unless they reach out first. If you are unsure which gifts your loved one donated, please contact us at (303) 370-2737 or email@example.com.
No, there is no period of time that is too soon or too late to begin corresponding with organ recipients. Only you can know when the time is right, and you may write a letter if and whenever you feel ready.
In our experience, the vast majority of donor families and recipients find it meaningful to correspond and connect with one another. However, we want to provide some considerations to help prepare you for possibilities that may be distressing or difficult.
- Recipients need an organ transplant because they are very ill. As a result, there is always a possibility that a recipient may become ill again or experience rejection of the organ, either of which could lead to loss of organ function or even death. This may cause significant distress for a donor family, and they may feel like they are experiencing another loss.
- Donor families and recipients may find that differences in backgrounds, values, and beliefs can present a challenge.
- Donor families and recipients may find that one party desires more contact than the other, which can lead to feelings of hurt and discomfort.
You can write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. The letter can be as long or short as you like, or you can even send a simple greeting card. For ideas and suggestions of what to write, please visit Suggestions for What to Include in Your Letter.
Your identity is confidential, unless you choose to share identifying information. Sharing your full name, where you live, work, or other identifying details may lead to the discovery of your identity using social media, an internet search, or other means. You may share whatever you feel comfortable sharing, but please remember that once sent, information cannot be taken back. If you wish to remain anonymous, consider not sharing personal details and signing your letter with only your first name or, "Your Donor Family."
Once Donor Alliance receives your letter, it is reviewed and forwarded to the hospital where the recipient received their transplant. The transplant hospital will then forward your letter to the recipient. These steps are taken to ensure the privacy of both parties, and exchanging letters often takes many weeks. If we are unable to forward your letter for any reason, we will let you know.
If you submit your letter using our online form, we will send you a confirmation email letting you know that your letter was received. If you submit your letter by mail, we will mail you a confirmation postcard to let you know that your letter was received. If we are not able to forward your letter for any reason, we will let you know.
Your identity is confidential, unless you choose to share identifying information. Sharing your full name, where you live, work, or other identifying details may lead to the discovery of your identity using social media, an internet search, or other means. You may share whatever you feel comfortable sharing, but please remember that once sent, information cannot be taken back.
If you wish to communicate with a recipient directly, you may include your contact information in your letter. Please be sure to review the Considerations for Direct Contact before sharing your contact information. The recipient may or may not choose to contact you directly, and written correspondence can continue through Donor Alliance for as long as that is desired by either party.
Please understand that the recipient’s transplant center may limit what information can be shared, and they may redact correspondence according to their policies when forwarded.
You may or may not receive a response from your loved one’s recipient(s), and we urge you to be prepared for either outcome. Just as it is your choice to correspond with a recipient, it is also the recipient’s choice whether or not to reply. Some recipients may not write due to challenging recovery periods, while others are overwhelmed with complex emotions and find it difficult to express their feelings and gratitude. Some recipients want their privacy, and some may simply need more time. Silence from a recipient in no way diminishes their gratefulness for the gift they were given, and in no way lessens the lifesaving impact that your loved one had on them.
If both parties express an interest in meeting, this may be possible. To facilitate this possibility, you are welcome to include your contact information in your letter once you have reviewed the Considerations for Direct Contact. It is up to the recipient whether they contact you directly. Please remember that the timing may not be right for the recipient, or they may not be willing or able to meet in person. Many people have meaningful connections through written correspondence, and letters can continue to be exchanged through Donor Alliance for as long as that is desired by either party.
We will do everything we can to connect you with your loved one’s recipient(s), no matter how long ago your loved one was a donor. It is possible that with the passage of time, recipients may have moved or lost contact with their transplant center, or they may have died in the time since the transplant, and getting a letter to them may not be possible. If we are not able to forward your letter for any reason, we will let you know.
Donation is a gift that is given and received confidentially. We strongly recommend against searching for, reaching out to, or responding to people you think may be recipients of your loved one’s gifts without first establishing a connection through Donor Alliance and the recipient’s transplant center. Mistakes have been made that lead to incorrect assumptions of identity and connections with the wrong recipients have occurred, which can be difficult and painful to work through. The only way to ensure that you are communicating with the correct recipient is to do so through Donor Alliance and the recipient’s transplant center. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a recipient of your loved one’s gifts, please contact us so we can verify their identity and help facilitate the relationship in a manner in which everyone is comfortable.
Yes. In Colorado and most of Wyoming, cornea recovery and correspondence with cornea recipients is facilitated by the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank. This is a separate organization from Donor Alliance. For more information how to contact your loved one’s cornea recipients, please visit the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank website at www.corneas.org or call 800.444.3938.
To find the Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) for any state, you can visit www.aopo.org/find-your-opo.
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Identity Release and Direct Contact
All correspondence between donor families and recipients is anonymous until/unless one decides that they would like to share identifying or contact information. In our experience, the vast majority of direct contact between donor families and recipients is positive and fulfilling. Though potential problems are rare, we want to ensure that everyone involved has considered the possible benefits and concerns. Please review these considerations before signing your release form, and reach out to us if you would like to discuss anything in greater detail.
Things to Consider
- Sharing identifying information in your letter to a recipient (i.e. names, where you live, work, or other identifying details) may lead to the discovery of your identity using social media, an internet search, or other means.
- Sharing contact information can simplify the process of communication between donor families and recipients. There is an opportunity to learn more about the other party in a personal and direct way, which may or may not include meeting in person.
- Donor families and recipients may find that differences in background, values, and beliefs can present a challenge. Donor families and recipients often have ideas about one another prior to meeting in person. Sometimes these ideas are not the reality, and this can lead to disappointment and hurt feelings.
- Making the decision to share contact information and communicate directly is a personal choice. It is also the recipient’s choice whether or not to reach out, and we urge you to be prepared for either outcome. A recipient may not be ready to communicate directly, now or ever. Many families have meaningful relationships with recipients through written correspondence, and you may continue to send and receive letters via Donor Alliance for as long as that is desired by either party.
- Other organizations involved in facilitating your loved one’s donation may limit what information can be shared, and identifying/contact information may be redacted according to their policies when received.
Authorization to Release Donor Family Identity form
You are welcome to include your contact information in your letter to a recipient once you have read and signed the Authorization to Release Donor Family Identity. You may send your signed form to us by:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mail: Donor Alliance, Attn: Aftercare, 200 Spruce St., Suite 200, Denver, CO 80230
- Upload along with a letter for the recipient(s) via our website here.
Click the button below to download the Authorization to Release Donor Family Identity form.