A moving new book containing the letters and photographs sent to organ donor families by patients who have received donated organs has been published for the first time.
‘Thank you for life’, which was officially launched on Tuesday 9 November 2010, shares the life-changing benefit of organ donation through the simplicity of letter writing. It portrays the touching stories of recipients from a variety of backgrounds and from all walks of life as they say thank you to the families who agreed to the donation of their loved ones organs. These intensely private communications are generally anonymous.
Helen Eccles, who attended the launch and press conference alongside Public Health Minister, Anne Milton, is one of the recipients who contributed her letters to the book. She received a mismatched (different blood group) liver transplant in 1996 and has written letters to the family of her organ donor giving thanks and updating them on her family life and achievements over the years. Her painting forms the cover of ‘Thank you for life’ and is Helen’s own interpretation of the 14th century Siennese painter, Duccio’s painting of the Annunciation from scenes in the Maestà. She said: “I am delighted and very proud to be supporting this book wholeheartedly celebrating the generosity of donors and their families who, at a time of inconsolable loss and grief, give complete strangers like me the chance of health and happiness because that is what their loved ones wished for."
After a transplant, recipients often wish to convey thanks to the donor family and similarly donor families may wish to communicate with the recipients. They can do this by corresponding through the transplant co-ordinators based at hospitals and the Specialist Nurses: Organ Donation (SNs:OD), who work closely with intensive care and emergency department staff to identify potential donors as well as supporting bereaved families throughout the entire organ donation process. These communications often provide great comfort to the donor families and can lead on to the donor families and the transplant recipients actually meeting up.
Professor Andrew Burroughs, Consultant Physician, Royal Free Hospital and Professor of Hepatology, University College London, together with Linda Selves, Senior Transplant co-ordinator at the Royal Free Hospital, have been a driving force in the compilation of the book. He said: “We wished the book to represent a medium through which all donors and their families, past, present and future, are publicly thanked and celebrated. We encourage anyone reading these letters to think about how much can be done, without need of any money, by donating their organs for others.”
Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, explained: “Our Specialist Nurses: Organ Donation (SNs:OD) play an important role throughout the organ donation process, supporting families who agree to donating their loved ones organs. After donation they are responsible for arranging the exchange of letters from recipients of organs to their donor families, whilst maintaining the anonymity of both donor and recipient.
“The emotions laid bare within the letters in this book vividly illustrate the difference transplants make to the lives of those in need of a donated organ and the importance of organ donation.”
The book has been published by the Royal College of Physicians, in collaboration with the Department of Health, and will be distributed in the UK. Copies will be offered to the families of organ donors through their SNs:OD at a time deemed appropriate in the weeks or months after donation has taken place. It is hoped that it will be an educational tool for discussing and promoting organ donation in the UK. The book is available for sale to the general public.
A press conference to launch “Thank you for life” took place at the Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrew’s Place, London NW1 on Tuesday 9 November 10.30am. Speakers were:
For additional information regarding ‘Thank you for life’ please contact the NHSBT press office on 0117 969 2444. For out of hours enquiries please call: 07659 133583.
Notes to editors