Donor Families

Supporting Donor Families

Your local OPO offers support for families of those who have given the precious gift of life through organ donation. For those who are learning to live with their loss during the initial months and in the year following their loved one’s death, OPO staff will supply each family with support, care and guidance through phone calls, correspondence, activities and events that honor the loved ones who gave the gift of life. Beyond the initial hospital contact, Family Care Coordinators are available to assist families with an assortment of bereavement materials, direct them to local support groups and provide information about the recipients who were given the gift of life. If requested, we can also coordinate anonymous correspondence to the recipients when the donor families are ready to do so.

Thanks For Giving Ceremony

For those donors who gave the gift of life, we annually give thanks to recent organ, tissue and eye donors and their families at regional Thanks for Giving Ceremonies in each region. At this event, we have a Keynote Speaker, a balloon release and light refreshments. To pay tribute to the donors, we ask their families to provide us with a photograph of their loved one so that a video presentation can be created and shown during the ceremony. We also invite our donor families to create a quilt square that will be part of a larger display in our offices.


National Donor Family Council (link) – National support group for donor families, links to informative web sites and other useful information related to organ and tissue donation.

Writing to Transplant Recipients

The decision to write to the recipients of your loved one’s organs is very personal. Often times, donor families write to recipients to share information about themselves and their loved one. Many feel that writing such a letter helps them work through the grief. Tennessee Donor Services supports written correspondence between donor families and recipients. All correspondence is anonymous, unless both the donor family and the recipient wish to disclose their identities. If you would like to write to transplant recipients, consider sending a handwritten or typed letter, or greeting card. The following are some general guidelines for writing to recipients:

  • Please include first name only;
  • Share information about your loved one such as their occupation, hobbies, or interests;
  • Share information about your family;
  • Since the religion of the recipient is unknown, please consider this when including religious comments;
  • When closing your letter or card, you may sign your name if you choose;
  • Place your letter or card in an unsealed envelope;
  • Include, on a separate piece of paper, your full name, your loved one’s name, and the date of the donation; and enclose the items in another envelope addressed (in TN) to Tennessee Donor Services, 1600 Hayes Street, Suite 300, Nashville, Tennessee, 37203. If you live in another State, please visit your local OPOs web site for information.

The Donor Family Liaison at Tennessee Donor Services (or other local OPO) will review your letter or card, and will then forward it to the recipient’s transplant center. The transplant center will then forward your correspondence to the recipient. Since your letter or card must be forwarded to Tennessee Donor Services (or your local OPO) first, please allow extra time for it to reach the recipient.

You may or may not receive a response from the recipients. Some recipients may take several months or even years before they feel comfortable writing to the donor family. Many recipients have said that they are overwhelmed with emotion and have difficulty expressing their gratitude in words. However, all recipients are extremely thankful for your loved one’s gift.

If you would like more information regarding writing to recipients, please ask for Robin Schenk at 615-564-3638.

Transplant Patients

Currently in the service area covered by Tennessee Donor Services, more than 2,400 people wait for a life-saving transplant (heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, intestine or pancreas). We are committed to saving and improving lives by connecting one life to another through donation and transplantation.  In 2010, there were 658 Tennesseans who received life saving transplants.