Last year, U.S. care teams performed a record-breaking 33,600 organ transplants thanks to 15,945 organ donors who provided the gift of life. That’s 92 people a day whose lives were saved because someone said yes to organ donation.
It’s important to remember that while one family celebrates the gift of organ donation,another is mourning the loss of a loved one. As members of the LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services team — our organ donor program serving all of North Florida — my colleagues and I have the unique opportunity to comfort donor families during this traumatic time.
“Our main goal is to present the option of organ donation and provide an alternative to a horrible situation,” said Allyson Krause, clinical coordinator. “Once the recovery operation is complete, that’s not the end of the story.”
The LifeQuest team provides ongoing aftercare and bereavement services to all of its families. Additionally, coordinators and family advocates often form personal bonds with family members that blossom into lifelong friendships.
Senior clinical coordinator Jessica Skiver recalls a case from a past Valentine’s Day in which she and an organ donor’s longtime boyfriend connected in remembrance of his loved one and have kept in touch. They now regularly exchange holiday cards.
“He’s very thankful for everything we did to make his girlfriend’s legacy impactful,” she said.
The team recently adopted a donor family to offer support during the holiday season. The father had passed away in an accident and saved five lives through organ donation. Our team donated gifts to bring some joy to his wife and four young children during the holidays.
Among other aftercare services provided to donor families, our team encourages families to write to recipients, make squares for memorial quilts and attend donor tribute events. Many donor families volunteer for LifeQuest to share their loved ones’ stories and provide education about the importance of organ donation.
As public education coordinator, I’m blessed to build friendships with members of donor families who help our cause. Many memories created from these relationships stand out.
I kayaked among manatees with Terry Rooks, the sister of heroic organ donor Tim Rooks.
Donor father Clifford Gionet shares my passion for traveling, and after each new adventure, we send each other photos.
Organ donor Peyton Evans’ 4-year-old little sister made me a coral snake that hangs in my office. The Evans family has invited me to their home for dinner on many occasions.
It’s a privilege to serve our donor families and honor their loved ones as their stories continue onward through the ultimate gift — the gift of life.
LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services public education coordinator