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Transplantation Science: Frequently Asked Student Questions

Transplantation ScienceThrough Transplantation Science, an award-winning, free program for 7th through 12th graders, students throughout Colorado and Wyoming are able to get new perspective on organ, eye and tissue donation. The 50-90 minute workshops at schools throughout the region, aim to give students a better understanding of what it means to be a registered organ, eye and tissue donor and how transplantation works.

During and after these sessions, our educators typically receive a number of great questions from students. It is our hope that this page will serve as a frequently updated resource that answers some of the most common questions our educators see. If you have a question about organ and tissue donation that is not answered here, share it with us on Facebook at Facebook.com/DonateLifeColorado, or Facebook.com/DonateLIfeWyoming, or on Twitter @DonateLifeCO or @DonateLifeWY.

Does the family get to meet who they’re donating to?

Sometimes. Soon after donation occurs, the family of a donor will be given general non-identifying information about their loved one’s recipient(s), including age, gender, region of residence, and hobbies/interests. Donor families and recipients may correspond with each other at any time, and this process is facilitated by Donor Alliance and transplant centers in a way that ensures donor and recipient confidentiality. If correspondence continues over time—and both parties agree—they may begin to communicate directly. Some go on to meet each other in person, while others may be more comfortable communicating without direct contact. It is also possible that either party may decline to correspond or meet for various reasons. To learn more about process, visit our corresponding with recipients FAQ.

How does the life of the donor change after donating their organs or tissues?

The majority of transplanted organs are provided by deceased donors. However, about 25 percent of organs provided for transplant in Colorado are provided by living donors, or people who donate one of their kidneys or a piece of their liver to someone else. Although living donation requires major surgery—and all major surgery comes with some risks—the vast majority of living donors go on to live a full and active life, with no complications from surgery. It is important to note that signing up on the Donate Life Colorado/Wyoming Organ & Tissue Donor Registry at the driver license office or online does not pertain to living donation, only to donation after death. Click here, for more information on living donation. You can also learn more about what you are committing to when you say ‘yes’ at the driver license office, here.

How does donation impact the donor’s family?

Every family deals with grief differently. However, many families find that donation creates something positive out of one of the most difficult moments of their lives. To read more about how donation has touched some of the lives of donor family members, visit our Donor Family Stories page.

How do the doctors feel in that situation?

This is a personal question dependent on each doctor, and one that we are not able to answer. What we can tell you is, the doctors who care for a patient in the hospital are not associated with the doctors who perform the recovery and transplant surgeries on donors. Medical professionals always try all lifesaving measures and death is declared prior to and independent of donation.

How can I help besides by being a donor?

There are a number of ways to help beyond registering to be a donor.

  • Most importantly, we encourage you to talk to your family about what your decision is regarding donation. Whether someone is a registered donor or not, it is tremendously helpful for the family through their own grief process when they know what their loved one wanted.
  • You may also consider volunteering. We have many events that we staff with our volunteer program, Advocates for Life. The focus of this program is to educate the public about what organ and tissue donation is so that they are able to make educated decisions when they are asked about being a donor at the Driver License Office. To learn more about becoming a volunteer, visit our volunteer page.
  • Another way to consider raising awareness for organ and tissue donation every day is by getting a Donate Life license plate at the DMV.
  • Last but certainly not least, consider a living donation. For more information on living donation, visit our Living Donation page to find the transplant center closest to you.

What advances have been made through organ transplants?

As in any medical field, there are constant advances and innovation in organ donation and transplantation. We encourage you to do additional research for information on this topic, and choose the sites that come from reputable medical resources, including:

Can you provide any information about the people whose organs students see in Transplantation Science sessions?

In order to protect the families of the donors whose organs are available for our Transplantation Science program, we are given limited information. The information that your educator gave you included all of the details that we have. The important thing to remember is that those donors were people who decided to donate their organs for educational learning.

What happens to the donor after all of the organs and tissues to be donated have been recovered?

Our donors and their families are treated with great care and respect throughout the entire donation process. Following the recovery of organs and tissues from the donor, the donors are returned in a presentable state to their families, often via funeral homes or services. It is the family’s responsibility to make arrangements with a funeral home. Donor Alliance is not involved in the decision-making process when selecting a funeral home, but will work closely with the staff of the funeral home of choice or the coroners to coordinate where the donor will go post recovery.

How do autopsies affect organ and tissue donation?

Autopsies do not prevent organ and tissue donation. Donor Alliance coordinates closely with the coroner’s office to make sure that donation does not interfere with death investigations. If the coroner is aware that it was the wish of the deceased and/or their family to be an organ and tissue donor, they will work to perform an autopsy within a time period that allows for donation.

Thank you to all of the students who continue to share their questions and comments with us! Organ and tissue donation and transplantation can be difficult to understand, but it is important to ask questions when you don’t understand something. We appreciate any and all questions regarding organ and tissue donation, and continue to be grateful to all of the schools and teachers requesting Transplantation Science to help students gain a better understanding of organ, eye and tissue donation.

To learn more about Transplantation Science, visit our program page, or to send a schedule request for your school, click here.