The experience of losing a family member is understandably difficult for donor families and friends, many find comfort knowing that their loved one gave the ultimate gift of life. Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA) is committed to honoring the memories of donors and supporting donor families in their journeys.
After the death of a loved one, STA provides a 12-month program that supports families during their loss. Our family care and bereavement team is available to assist with bereavement materials, direct you to local support groups, and provide guidance through phone calls and correspondence. We invite you to attend volunteer events that honor your loved one and we can even connect you with volunteer opportunities.
Honoring Your Donor
Southwest Transplant Alliance believes organ donors are heroes. Our bereavement program is specially designed to honor the memory of donors and offer reassurance and support to donor families. Some of the features of this program include:
Donor Family and Recipient Communications
The decision to correspond with your family member’s recipient(s) is a personal one. Some choose to share their loved one’s story, while others wish to learn more about recipients. All correspondence is anonymous and identities are kept confidential until both you and the recipient agree to share identifying information. Southwest Transplant Alliance is bound by medical ethics and privacy regulation, and we take donor and recipient privacy very seriously.
If you are considering writing to your loved one’s recipient(s), please use the following guide when you draft your correspondence.
It’s important to remember that while you may wish to correspond with a transplant recipient, it’s the recipient’s personal choice whether or not to return the sentiment. Some transplant recipients have said that the emotions surrounding their life-saving gift can be overwhelming, and it’s difficult for them to express their gratitude in words. Still others may take several months or years before they feel comfortable responding.
Meeting Organ Recipients
Southwest Transplant Alliance encourages you to reach out to your loved one’s recipients by first writing a letter to ensure there is a mutual agreement to meet and/or exchange identifying contact information. Once this has occurred by both parties and the appropriate release and consent forms have been signed, Southwest Transplant Alliance is willing to facilitate a meeting upon request.
Due to the large number of lives saved with a single tissue donation, communication with tissue recipients differs from that of organ recipients. Our tissue partner organizations have explained that health care providers are prevented from releasing specific information about tissue recipients. Only the recipient may approve release of their information, therefore, contact cannot be initiated by the donor family.
However, several programs have recently been created to encourage tissue recipients to reach out to their donor families. As a result, the number of correspondence received has greatly increased. Should Southwest Transplant Alliance receive a letter from one of your loved one’s tissue recipients, we will forward it as soon as possible. For this reason, it’s important to keep Southwest Transplant Alliance informed with your most up-to-date mailing address.
Grief Support and Resources
Grieving is both natural and healthy. Communicating with your family, friends and others who have experienced loss is a healthy way to deal with the sometimes overwhelming grief you may experience as a donor family member.
Southwest Transplant Alliance has compiled a recommended reading list to help donor families deal with grief.
Some Texas counties have bereavement and support groups that meet regularly. For more information about bereavement programs in your county, call the Southwest Transplant Alliance at 800-788-8058.
Christopher Jacobs’s Story
Even as a young child, Chris loved life and was always joking around. He grew up collecting Hot Wheels, he played softball and football, and loved fast cars and fishing. Chris dreamed of joining the United States Air Force and one day becoming a firefighter. Chris always wanted to help others. After a car accident left him in the ICU for three days, his mother decided that if Chris could not help people during his life, she would fulfill his wishes in his death. Chris went on to save several lives by donating his kidneys, liver, heart valves and corneas.