Thanking your donor

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Teen girl writing in notebook

If you received a transplant from a living donor, you have probably already thanked them many times for giving you a new kidney. But even if you received your kidney from a deceased donor, you can express your gratitude by writing a thank you note to your donor family. This is something that donor families very much appreciate.

Writing a thank you letter

It is important for you and your donor’s family to respect each other’s privacy. It is also the law.

What to put in the letter

  • Start your letter with “Dear Donor Family”.
  • Thank the family for their gift.
  • Tell them about your illness and how you are doing since your transplant.
  • Tell a little about your family, but do not include any names.
  • Briefly describe any of your hobbies or special interests.
  • Share any important events that have happened in your life since your transplant, for example any birthdays, births or graduations.
  • Carefully consider whether to include religious comments. You do not know about the donor family’s religious views, if any.

Signing the letter

Sign your card or letter “The recipient” only. Never include your first or last name.

Do not include any other information that could help the donor’s family identify you, such as:

  • your home address
  • your phone number
  • the name of your school
  • the hospital or transplant centre where you received your new organ.

Sample letters

Still not sure what to write? Have a look at these sample letters for the family of a kidney or liver donor.

When to write to the donor family

Some teens and families like to write a letter once they are discharged from hospital. Others might write to donor families on the anniversary of their transplant.

How to get the letter to the donor family

  1. Place your card or letter in an unsealed envelope.
  2. On a separate page, write:
    • your full name
    • the date of your transplant.
  3. Put the letter and the separate page of your information in a sealed envelope. Give this to your transplant co-ordinator.
  4. The transplant co-ordinator will review the letter to make sure that you have followed the guidelines about privacy and confidentiality.
  5. The co-ordinator will send the letter and your details to Trillium Gift of Life Network.
  6. The Family Services Advisor at Trillium will send your letter to the donor family.

Note that it can take several weeks for your letter to reach the donor family.

Will the donor family write back?

You might or might not hear from the donor family. Some families might find comfort in writing about their loved one and deciding to donate an organ. Other donor families might prefer privacy and choose not to write back to you.

If you do not hear from the donor family, please do not take it personally. The donor family has lost a loved one and might find it too difficult to respond.

Our research with donor families tells us that, whether they write back or not, they are very grateful to receive notes from the people whom their donor has helped. When a family goes through a painful loss like this, hearing how their loved one helped another child or teen can sometimes be the only positive thing they can take from their experience.

Want to know more about your donor?

There is only very limited information that you are allowed to know about your donor. You can know the blood group of the donor and the result of the tests that have been done to check for viruses. To protect the confidentiality of organ donation, you will not be able to know your donor’s name or age or how they died.

What if I find it hard to be grateful?

Some teens have told us that they think they “should” always feel grateful to receive a kidney. This is sometimes very hard, especially if you are struggling with complications after a transplant or even with the everyday routine of taking medicines several times a day, drinking enough fluids and attending hospital appointments.

Feeling a duty to be grateful can be even harder when you receive a kidney from a living donor and they ask you how you are doing with “their” kidney and if you are looking after it well.

It is important to acknowledge that someone has done something kind and generous in donating you their kidney, but you do not have to feel eternally grateful. In fact, the whole point of having a transplant is to get on with your life. The best way to show your gratitude is to take care of your new organ and live a full life!

Last updated: November 30th 2017