Finding Hope in the Midst of Loss: The Donation Conversation

Finding Hope in the Midst of Loss: The Donation Conversation

by Owen Pechous

At the heart of Iowa Donor Net­work’s life-sav­ing mis­sion are our gen­er­ous donors and their fam­i­lies who gra­cious­ly say YES” to organ and/​or tis­sue dona­tion dur­ing times of immense loss. Onsite Dona­tion Advo­cates and Dona­tion Advo­cates, which are part of the Inspire the Gift team, serve as the ini­tial point of con­tact for these fam­i­lies, guid­ing them through the del­i­cate process of dona­tion with empa­thy and under­stand­ing. Their role requires under­stand­ing of the med­ical intri­ca­cies of organ and tis­sue dona­tion and the abil­i­ty to empa­thet­i­cal­ly con­nect with fam­i­lies dur­ing these times.

When engag­ing with fam­i­lies, the team nav­i­gates the com­plex­i­ties of grief and deci­sion-mak­ing. The ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion is crit­i­cal, focus­ing on under­stand­ing the fam­i­ly’s per­spec­tive and pro­vid­ing sup­port with­out imme­di­ate­ly intro­duc­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to give the gift of life. This strat­e­gy, as described by one of the Man­agers of Inspire the Gift, Robin Coarts, is imple­ment­ed while walk­ing a fine line — ensur­ing that the idea of dona­tion is intro­duced respect­ful­ly and at an appro­pri­ate time dur­ing the conversation. 

The rela­tion­ships built with fam­i­lies dur­ing these times are not fleet­ing. Coarts empha­sizes the last­ing impact these inter­ac­tions have on both poten­tial donor fam­i­lies and Inspire the Gift team mem­bers them­selves. There is a recog­ni­tion of both the emo­tion­al weight of these con­ver­sa­tions, and the impor­tance of self-care and mutu­al sup­port with­in the team to sus­tain their abil­i­ty to pro­vide com­pas­sion­ate care.

The Role of the Advocates

Onsite Dona­tion Advo­cates engage direct­ly with fam­i­lies and med­ical pro­fes­sion­als in hos­pi­tal set­tings, han­dling both organ and tis­sue dona­tion. Their role is crit­i­cal, requir­ing a bal­ance of clin­i­cal exper­tise with the abil­i­ty to offer under­stand­ing and com­fort to fam­i­lies dur­ing their time of grief. These advo­cates focus on com­pre­hend­ing the fam­i­ly’s sit­u­a­tion, pro­vid­ing sup­port, and ensur­ing deci­sions are made with respect and care. 

Con­verse­ly, Dona­tion Advo­cates focus on guid­ing the tis­sue dona­tion process over the phone. This role involves ini­ti­at­ing sen­si­tive con­ver­sa­tions with fam­i­lies, build­ing rap­port, and dis­cussing the poten­tial of dona­tion, often in emo­tion­al­ly com­plex and time-sen­si­tive situations.

Both Onsite Dona­tion Advo­cates and Dona­tion Advo­cates, though work­ing in dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments, are unit­ed in their mis­sion to pro­vide com­pas­sion­ate guid­ance. Togeth­er, their roles form a com­pre­hen­sive sup­port sys­tem, ensur­ing fam­i­lies receive the care, under­stand­ing, and infor­ma­tion they need dur­ing these crit­i­cal moments.

Com­mit­ment to Sup­port­ing Donor Families

Iowa Donor Net­work is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing com­pre­hen­sive sup­port to donor fam­i­lies dur­ing and after the dona­tion process for how­ev­er long they may need. Our com­mit­ment ensures that every fam­i­ly feels informed, respect­ed, and cared for dur­ing their time of loss. 

Emi­ly Allaire, whose son Gil Taiber was a tis­sue and eye donor, shared her expe­ri­ence with the com­pas­sion­ate care pro­vid­ed by Iowa Donor Net­work. Iowa Donor Net­work walked us through every aspect (of the dona­tion process). If I had a ques­tion, they were a phone call away, and helped us rest easy know­ing we under­stood the process under their guid­ance,” said Emi­ly. Her words under­score the impor­tance of sup­port sys­tems that sur­round donor fam­i­lies, pro­vid­ing a sense of com­fort and clar­i­ty amid the com­plex­i­ties of the dona­tion process. 

This con­sis­tent, car­ing approach demon­strates Iowa Donor Network’s ded­i­ca­tion to the fam­i­lies who find them­selves at the heart of these live-sav­ing deci­sions and reflects our com­mit­ment to hon­or each donor and their loved ones with sup­port and empathy. 

A Uni­fied Approach to Donation 

The Inspire the Gift team stands as a mod­el of effec­tive team­work and clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Their efforts exem­pli­fy a com­mit­ment to our mis­sion of work­ing togeth­er to trans­form lives through the gift of organ and tis­sue dona­tion, marked by empa­thy, effi­cien­cy, and collaboration. 

Onsite Dona­tion Advo­cates work in tan­dem with oth­er Iowa Donor Net­work teams, bridg­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion between med­ical staff and donor fam­i­lies. Their col­lab­o­ra­tion ensures that each step of the dona­tion process, from donor eli­gi­bil­i­ty to fam­i­ly after­care, is con­duct­ed with respect and dig­ni­ty. This close part­ner­ship is vital in main­tain­ing the integri­ty and com­pas­sion inher­ent in the dona­tion process.

Shap­ing the Future

In her role as the man­ag­er of Inspire the Gift, Robin Coarts has opti­mistic and ambi­tious goals for the team’s future. One of her aspi­ra­tions is to strength­en the edu­ca­tion­al aspects of organ and tis­sue dona­tion through ongo­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with oth­er teams at Iowa Donor Net­work. She envi­sions a future where more com­pre­hen­sive train­ing and inno­v­a­tive approach­es to edu­ca­tion become a cor­ner­stone of their oper­a­tions. This focus on edu­ca­tion aims to empow­er a broad­er com­mu­ni­ty of health­care pro­fes­sion­als and poten­tial donor families. 

Anoth­er sig­nif­i­cant goal for Robin and her team is to fos­ter stronger col­lab­o­ra­tions with hos­pi­tals. By increas­ing touch­points with physi­cians and nurs­es, Inspire the Gift seeks to cre­ate a more inte­grat­ed and cohe­sive approach to dona­tion. This all hands-on deck” strat­e­gy under­scores the impor­tance of team­work in the mul­ti­fac­eted process of dona­tion, ensur­ing that all sides involved are aligned towards the same mission. 

Robin’s vision for Inspire the Gift is one of growth and col­lab­o­ra­tion, reflec­tive of the team’s ded­i­ca­tion to mak­ing a last­ing and for­ward-think­ing impact with­in the dona­tion world. 

A Lega­cy of Hope and Healing

Dona­tion con­ver­sa­tion is about forg­ing deep con­nec­tions, under­stand­ing com­plex emo­tions, and nav­i­gat­ing the inter­sec­tion of loss and hope. The ded­i­ca­tion and empa­thy of Inspire the Gift have not only facil­i­tat­ed life-sav­ing dona­tions but have also pro­vid­ed com­fort and solace to count­less fam­i­lies dur­ing some of their most chal­leng­ing times. Through every inter­ac­tion and deci­sion, the Inspire the Gift team leaves a lega­cy of hope and renew­al in the midst of loss. 

Tak­ing the Next Step

As we share sto­ries and insights from our ded­i­cat­ed teams and donor fam­i­lies, we also encour­age you to have your own con­ver­sa­tion about organ and tis­sue dona­tion. Reg­is­ter­ing as a donor is an impor­tant deci­sion, but equal­ly impor­tant is dis­cussing the choice with your fam­i­ly. Open con­ver­sa­tions can pro­vide clar­i­ty and under­stand­ing for those involved. By mak­ing and shar­ing your dona­tion deci­sion, you are not only tak­ing a step to give the gift of life but also ensur­ing your wish­es are under­stood and respected.

To reg­is­ter as an organ and tis­sue donor and learn more vis­it iowadonor​net​work​.org/​r​e​g​ister.

Our Vision:

All are inspired to donate life.