Do I have to wait for my loved one’s recipients to write me first?

Donor Alliance facilitates two types of donation, organ and tissue. Some donors are able to donate both types, some one type. If you loved one was an organ donor, you can write to the organ recipients first and at any time. If your loved one was a tissue donor, the tissue recipients must write you first. Please contact us if you are unsure which type of donation your loved one was able to give.

Do I have to wait a certain length of time to write to my loved one’s organ recipients?

No, absolutely not. You may write when and if you are ready. Writing and exchanging letters can be an emotional experience, and having a support system can be helpful.

Social Media and the Internet

Donation is a gift that is given and received confidentially and without any expectation of communication. We strongly recommend against searching for, reaching out to, or responding to the potential recipients of your loved one’s donated gifts online without first establishing a relationship through written correspondence facilitated by Donor Alliance. Time and time again we see that this leads to incorrect assumptions of identity, hurt feelings and misunderstandings due to the informal communication style used on the internet. Submitting letters through Donor Alliance allows the possibility of relationships to develop in ways that are comfortable for everyone involved. If you are contacted online by someone claiming to be a recipient of your loved one’s donated gifts, please contact us so we can help facilitate this relationship and verify their identity.

What should I write?

The letter you write could be as short as you like, or you could include any detail about your loved one or yourself that you feel comfortable sharing. For more help, please refer to: Suggestions and Examples of what to write.

Is there anything I should avoiding saying?

We ask that you not include identifying information like last names, email address, phone number, and where you live. While it is possible to exchange this information with recipients, you both must consent to share this information. Sharing this information cannot be undone. We encourage you to get to know the recipient anonymously so you can decide if this is a relationship you would like to foster.

Can I include pictures?

Yes. Allowable file types on the online form are jpg, jpeg, png, and pdf. Please limit the size of the photo to 5 MB.

What happens after you receive my letter?

Once Donor Alliance receives your correspondence it is then reviewed and forwarded to the hospital where the recipient received his/her transplant. The coordinator at the transplant center will then forward the letter to the recipient. It can take several weeks after you’ve mailed your correspondence for the transplant recipient to receive it. These steps are taken to ensure the confidentiality of both parties.

Will the recipients write me?

You may or may not receive a response from your loved one’s recipients. Just as donor families are not obligated to respond to recipient letters, recipients may chose not to write back. Recipients deal with a complex, and sometimes overwhelming, combination of emotions after receiving their transplant. There’s joy and gratitude, but there can also be feelings of guilt. Please also be aware that some recipients have long and difficult recoveries. Silence from recipients doesn’t diminish their gratitude for the gift they we given, and in no way does it lessen the lifesaving impact that your loved one had on them.

Can I ever meet or correspond directly with my loved one’s recipients?

After at least one exchange of letters, and the expressed desire of both the recipient and the donor family to communicate directly, Donor Alliance and the recipient’s transplant center will help make this happen. Both parties will be sent information on possible outcomes of direct communication that require acknowledgement. It is then up to the donor family and the recipient to reach out to each other and potentially meet in person. We would love to hear from you if you are able to make this connection.

What are the potential issues of communicating with recipients?

We provide this information not to discourage correspondence, but to help families prepare for possibilities that may be distressing or difficult. Generally, communication is fulfilling to both recipient and donor family.

  • Health – A recipient needs 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, which could lead to the recipient’s death. The death of a recipient with whom a donor family has built a relationship may cause significant distress and may feel like a secondary loss.
  • Contact – Another risk might be that the donor family or recipient may desire more contact than the other. This can cause discomfort and hurt feelings.
  • Differences – Recipients and donor families may find differences in culture and beliefs challenging.

If my loved one was a donor many years ago, can I still contact his/her recipients?

This might be possible. We will do everything we can to help you make this connection. However, we may not be successful. Information and situations change, and sometimes people fall into obscurity over time. There is also the possibility that the recipients have died in the time after their transplant.

My loved one was a cornea donor, is it possible to contact these recipients?

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.

What should I do if my loved one was a donor, but the recovery took place in another state?

To find the Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) for any state, you can visit www.aopo.org/find-your-opo.