When I recently read the fascinating book “Letters of Note”, it brought back memories of writing the most difficult, and emotional, letter I will probably ever write.
As some of you know, my husband had a liver transplant…its now been almost 17 months….looking at him now you would never know just how sick he was…..
And the main reason he is alive and well…apart from the amazing surgeons, doctors, nurses etc at the Austin Hospital Liver Transplant Unit…was the fact that a family…somewhere…gave permission for organ donation.
If he hadn’t have received a donor liver, Jas wouldn’t have survived much longer. His liver was barely working due to all the scarring and infection from the autoimmune disease he has…and other organs were starting to show signs of deteriorating.
But the joy of seeing him recover so well, is tempered somewhat with the knowledge that a family had lost a loved one.
About 8 or so months after the transplant, we were ready to write our letters of thanks…
I wanted to write as well, because as a wife…and for a time, Jas’s full time carer…I wanted the family to know what a difference it has made..to thank them for giving my husband a chance at life again.
And it was one of the toughest things I have ever done…imagine trying to balance your words between expressing sadness that the family have lost a loved one, with thanking them for giving permission to allow organ donation, and how it has changed our lives…its a very delicate balance…
We wanted to hand write the letters…sending a typed letter just didn’t seem to be right….we bought some proper writing paper…spent a few hours relearning how to write neatly without any spelling mistakes…and when finished, enclosed the letters into a beautiful card.
In Australia, the information received by recipients about their donor is very brief…there is to be no direct contact….
Therefore, when you write a letter, it is given to a co-ordinater, who reads it through to make sure there is no too specific identifying information…it is then passed onto Donatelife who also checks it…and only then is it sent onto the donor family.
Not every transplant recipient writes a letter to their donor family…..everyone is different. Some write their letter soon after transplant…others like us wait a little while…whereas others feel that they just can’t do it.
One person who I spoke to said that they didn’t feel like they had achieved anything worthy enough since transplant..that their donor wouldn’t be proud of them.
But for us, although it was so difficult to write, there was a sense of relief to get it done…we just had to say thank you for such a valuable and important gift, no matter how difficult it was to put into words.
Then something totally unexpected happened…
A few months later, a letter arrived in our postbox from the Liver Transplant Unit….. I opened the outside envelope thinking it was about an appointment, but then a cover letter alerted me to the fact of what was inside….almost shaking, I rang Jas immediately….
Jas decided he would wait till I got home before he would open and read it.
I have to say it was a really weird day at work….questions were going through my mind…what would the letter say….would we like what they say…would anything be revealed that we didn’t know about…
No one else that we knew had ever received a letter back from their donor family, so had absolutely no idea what to expect.
Reading the donor letter was absolutely surreal…it was like receiving a message from the “flip” side…from someone who we will never meet, yet are eternally connected…
The letter was written by partner of the donor, and gave us a small insight into the person the donor was.
People ask if we would like to meet Jas’s donor family….although it was lovely to receive a letter from them, we don’t want to meet.
Imagine if you didn’t get on for whatever reason…too much could go wrong. I prefer to have the vision in my mind of what I imagine the donor and their family are like.
For they are the most wonderful people for giving us this precious gift…and if it wasn’t for their decision to allow organ donation, my husband would not be enjoying life today.
To find out more about organ donation, please visit the Donatelife website.