Writing Your Donor Family

Deciding to Write

The decision to write to your donor’s family is very personal and should be given careful consideration. Correspondence can be initiated by either a recipient or donor family. 

Many recipients have shared that writing to their donor’s family is the most difficult thing they have ever done. Despite the difficulty associated with writing, many recipients find it important to be able to express to their donor’s family how grateful they are for the choice they made to donate.   

Safeguarding the privacy of recipients and donor families is extremely important to Iowa Donor Network (IDN). For this reason, IDN has practices in place to ensure all initial correspondence between parties remains anonymous and confidential. IDN encourages healthy, written correspondence for a period of six-twelve months. After that time, if and when both parties wish to disclose their identities, IDN can help facilitate that next step in communication.

Writing Your Letter

You may choose to send a greeting card or personal letter. Whatever method you choose, we ask that you use the suggestions provided here as a guide to help you determine the content of your letter.       

Talk About…

  • Include your first name only
  • Share your family situation, such as marital status, children and/or grandchildren (share only first names)
Your Transplant Experience
  • Recognize the donor and thank the donor’s family for the gift
  • Describe the experience and how long you waited for a transplant
  • Explain how the transplant has improved your health and changed your life
  • Describe the important life moments (birthdays, return to school or work, becoming parent or grandparent) that have occurred since your transplant
In Closing…
  • Sign your first name only
  • Do not reveal your address, city, state or phone number

Things to Consider

  • Be brief (1 page recommendation)
  • Use simple language and communicate in a sensitive manner
  • Do not refer to your transplant organ/tissue by a nickname
  • Do not reveal the name or location of your hospital or physician
  • Do not share the date of your transplant
  • The religion of the donor family is unknown and may differ from your own so please consider this if you are thinking of including religious comments 

Mailing Your Letter

Place your letter in an unsealed, unstamped envelope. On a separate piece of paper write your full name and date of your transplant. Place the above enclosures inside a larger envelope and mail it to your transplant center. Your transplant center will then forward your letter to IDN and a Donor Family Companion will review your letter to ensure confidentiality before forwarding it you your donor’s family. Since your letter will be forwarded several times, please allow extra time for it to reach your donor’s family. 

Will the Donor Family Write Back?

Some donor families find the decision to write to recipients and share a bit about their loved one and themselves to be a positive step along their grief journey, while others find the process to difficult. Remember, as you look toward corresponding with your donor’s family that they are coping with the loss of their loved one and that individuals manage grief in different ways.   

For these reasons, you may or may not hear back from your donor’s family. Some recipients hear from their donor’s family one time, while others continue to correspond on an on-going basis. Some donor families write back quickly while others may take years to respond. These possibilities should all be considered as potential outcomes when making your decision whether or not to write.

Sample Letter

Dear Donor Family,
I’ve been trying to write this letter for seven months now. That was when both our worlds were turned upside down and will never be the same.
But somehow, through your grace and generosity, I received the most tremendous gift of all – I received a kidney on that day – yet more special than I could ever imagine. To say a mere thank you on paper seems so insufficient. Please know that I think of you, and thank you, every day. 
I was able to return to work today as a health care professional. Today, I worked with a two year old who has been sick. I witnessed her smile and clap her hands for the first time and am glad I was there to help her do that.
I hope that as you read this, you find the smallest bit of comfort in knowing that your decision has helped many others. I am trying to shine this light wherever I go.
A Grateful Recipient   

Our Vision:

All are inspired to donate life.