In the traditional method of communication between organ transplant recipients and the families of their donors, transplant centers and organ procurement organizations (OPOs) must review and forward hard-copy letters, a process that can take weeks or months. Also, many transplant patients don’t receive clear instructions on writing to their donor families. These factors have made the rate of correspondence between transplant recipients and donor families regrettably low, especially considering what it can mean to donor families to hear from someone whose life was saved by their loved one.
TransplantNet (TNet) provides a modern, streamlined alternative to traditional correspondence with an automated online system. On TNet, transplant recipients and their donor families can safely write electronic letters to one another, and participating OPOs and transplant centers can conveniently process their letters. Although correspondence through TNet is much faster, it still requires all of the screening steps that are included in the regular mail correspondence process. In addition, the implementation of TNet does not take away the availability of traditional correspondence. In fact, we provide general instructions for people who wish to write hard-copy letters. TNet effectively acts as a hub of information on communication between recipients of deceased donor organ transplants and the families of their donors.
Our mission is to increase correspondence between deceased donor organ transplant recipients and the families of their donors by hosting a free online service that allows them to easily contact one another. We especially focus on generating correspondence from transplant recipients to donor families. We want nearly 100% of donor families (who are willing to be sent correspondence) to receive letters of thanks from their loved one’s recipients. To accomplish this, we encourage transplant programs to embed information on writing to donor families in their educational talks and in the material they currently present to their patients.We believe that the option for recipients and donor families to contact one another should be an integral, well-understood piece of the organ donation process. Communication can be profoundly meaningful to both recipients and donor families, giving comfort to donor families who are grieving for their loved one and empowering recipients to express their deep gratitude for their donor’s gift. It expands the donor-recipient matching process past logistics and data and inspires the emergence of connection. It reaffirms the decision to donate. Furthermore, we aim to inform the public about organ donation and transplantation, alert the public to the shortage of organ donors, and increase awareness of living donation. Our website will continuously post letters from users at their discretion in order to demonstrate the deep impact of organ donation on both donor and recipient families. We believe these efforts will inspire visitors to become registered donors and living donors, leading a greater amount of available donated organs and a greater amount of lives saved by transplants.
We want to ensure that all organ donor families and organ transplant recipients know that TNet is a service available to them. We are working to increase the number of participating transplant centers and OPOs gradually and plan for TransplantNet to be implemented and adopted at the national and eventually international levels. Additionally, we foresee the expansion of our service to tissue and eye donor families and donation recipients.
The idea of TransplantNet was first dreamed by two sisters after hearing their father, an organ transplant surgeon, express his dissatisfaction often at the dinner table about the rarity of contact between transplant recipients and the families of their donors. The donor family-transplant recipient communication process unclear to them, a great number of his patients asked him how they could thank their donor families.
The efficiency and power of an online system seemed to be the perfect fit as an improved correspondence method. It could show once more the power of modern technology to improve our lives—to break, rather than form barriers.
Thanks to the generosity of one co-founder’s high school, which awarded her a grant to fund the project, TNet took off in the summer of 2014.