Writing Your Donor Family | Iowa Donor Network

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…

Your­self
  • 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.