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Donor Families & Recipients

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Sample Letter to a Donor Family

Dear Donor Family:

I am the 28-year-old male who received the precious gift from your loved one. I know that there are no words that can truly express my feelings for your family; it takes a special kind of person to make such a sacrifice in their time of grief and need. I would like you to know that your loved one and your family are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I know I will never be able to thank you enough for giving me a second chance at life. I can promise you that I will try to live up to the example set by your loved one and help other people.

I thought you might like to know how things are going. The doctor says everything is progressing extremely well. I have had no signs of rejection and the kidney is functioning extremely well. It has been about two months since the operation at the time I am writing this letter. I would have written sooner, but I wanted to make sure everything was working out so that I could show you what has been accomplished by your family’s decision to donate.

I would also like to say how sorry I am for your loss. I would give it all up to put your family all back together again. It is nice to know that there are such special people in this world who care about other people so much.

Saying thank you just doesn’t seem like enough when what somebody does is basically save your life. I sincerely hope that life treats your family to nothing but happiness and prosperity. If there is anything you would like to know about or from me, please don’t hesitate to ask. I just want to say thank you again.

God Bless You.

One extremely grateful man.


The following letter was written by a double-lung recipient to
his donor family:

Dear Donor Family,

For the first time in more than two years today, I was able to walk more than three miles without being short of breath. Just a week and a half after my lung transplant, I was able to walk over a mile without my fingers turning blue, or having to rest every few steps. Just under four weeks ago, I could barely walk around my apartment without being constantly hooked up to oxygen. My life was drastically different four weeks ago.

My name is Eric and I am a graduate student in Illinois studying speech and language pathology. Before I received my transplant, I was looking at the possibility of being unable to finish graduate school, having to withdraw from my program of study, as I was unable to do little things without the constant support of supplemental oxygen; even with oxygen, I became short of breath and had to stop my daily activities. Since the transplant, I haven’t required any more oxygen and I am back to many of my daily activities. As soon as I finish recovering, I plan to return to classes and resume my clinical responsibilities. With any luck, my return will come some point during this fall. Upon finishing my graduate degree next summer, I intend to take a clinical fellowship position and then possibly continue my education in medical school.

In addition to my life as a student, I am an avid photography enthusiast. Over the past two years, my ability to participate in my photography had dwindled to nothing. With time, I intend to become active once again with my photography. It is an activity that I have missed so much since my illness began taking over my life over fours years ago. I cannot wait to take the trips that I had to put off, and I cannot wait to be able to carry my own gear and camera without the assistance of others.

Despite having difficulty breathing since my freshmen years of college, I had no idea how sick I was until just over a year ago. I had noticed that I was having increasing shortness of breath doing simple tasks, and was given a variety of reasons about why I was having difficulty. The guesses kept coming and so did the worsening of my condition. A routine chest X-ray last summer, almost one year to the day that I received my transplant, following a bout of bronchitis showed substantial abnormalities. Over the course of the following two days, my life crumbled. I was admitted to the hospital where various procedures were conducted, and more than one doctor told me that I would likely be dead and definitely crippled within a few years if nothing was done quickly, but none of the doctors knew what was causing the problem. All anyone knew was that my lungs were becoming scarred and inflamed and they were quickly losing any residual function.

By September 2003, I knew that I would need a transplant if I were going to survive much longer. My lung disease was progressing rapidly and not responding to any of the drug treatments that I was offered. In late November I began the process of being added to the UNOS waiting list, and by the first week of December I was listed.

Over the months, my life was put on hold as my condition quickly deteriorated. I was told that I was lucky to be transplanted so quickly, but I do not know how much longer I could have lasted emotionally. Those months were a huge strain on my family and me. I was in Illinois and my family was in Florida. When I was dealing with the emotional roller coaster of my family, I was buried in work from my classes.

This past year I missed so much of my life. My personal life was non-existent, and I spent my time sleeping, studying or eating (and sometimes just sleeping because I had no energy to do anything else). For the first time in eight years, I was unable to volunteer as a senior staff member at a camp for children with diabetes. Camp had become a home away from home for me and being unable to attend was incredibly difficult for me emotionally. I sat tethered to my tank, while friends from camp called to wish me well, not sure if I’d ever make it back for another session. I also had to stop volunteering for the Red Cross, where I had previously been a CPR for the Professional Rescuer and Lifeguarding Instructor. I spend much of my volunteer time at the Red Cross teaching nurses, paramedics, lifeguards and other professionals how to perform CPR and administer oxygen. As soon as I heal from the transplant, which will no doubt take some time, I plan to resume all of these activities. Without your generosity, I might never have had these opportunities.

I have been given a second chance at life, and I have no intention of wasting a second of it. With some physical training, since my lung disease took severe toll on my physical condition, I hope to complete the Hustle Up the Hancock in Chicago next year, where participants climb 94 stories of stairs to observation deck. Before my transplant I could barely climb one flight, 94 stories would be a huge accomplishment. Right now, however, I am happy just to be able to climb one flight without becoming short of breath. Even this ability is new since the transplant. Last month, I was taking the elevator everywhere or stopping every five steps to stop and catch my breath. Keeping up with my friends and colleagues was impossible.

While I know your decision to donate your loved one’s organs must have been very difficult, I also want you to know what a difference your decision has made in my life. I now have the hope of living a more normal and active life. Regardless of how normal my new life ends up being, it will be a better life than what I was living, and I will be alive. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude to you for giving me this opportunity. I realized that you are going through a difficult time with the loss of your loved one and I respect your right to privacy, but I would really like to know where the miracle that I received came from. I have absolutely no information about your family or loved one. I hope the information that I have provided to you brings you some solace that some good came out of this tragedy. Thank you for making the decision to save my life, the life of someone you have never met.

With inexpressible gratitude,


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Inspirations: Our Online Tribute Book

Many donor families and transplant recipients share their donation experiences in Inspirations, our online Donor Family and Transplant Recipient Tribute Book. We invite you to read their stories and hope they will inspire you write your own and make the decision to donate life.

Honoring Those Who Gave:
Donor Family Tributes

Grateful to Those Who Gave:
Transplant Recipient Tributes


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