Many transplant recipients do not know who their donor was and they never meet their donor’s family. When deceased donation occurs, one family is getting the call they have waited for that will change their life forever. Another family also received a call and they are faced with making a selfless and heroic decision that could save a stranger’s life.
The gratitude transplant recipients have for the gifts of life from their unknown donors is present in their daily lives and in every memory they make. Camille, a kidney & pancreas recipient from Lander, Wyoming, is grateful every day and she shares her story in a precious letter to her donor’s family.
A Letter to My Donor’s Family
Written by Camille, Kidney & Pancreas transplant recipient, from Lander, Wyoming
I hope and pray that this finds you all doing well. It has been a very long time since I first wrote to you, but I wanted you to know that I still keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. You are always on my mind.
I am from Lander, Wyoming and was one of the persons who benefited from your loved one’s selfless decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. I understand that you lost your loved one on that day in January of 1995. On that day, something good happened too as I gained a second chance at life. I wanted you to know that although saying “Thank You” a million times can never be enough, I hope the fact that I am honoring the gift of life I received almost 26 years later, is a testament to my gratitude for you all. I am taking care of these gifts and wanted you to know.
I want to share a few touching memories with you. These memories always make me smile and I hope they do the same for you. These are only 3 short memories, but know I could go on and on, as I cherish all my memories now knowing I wouldn’t have them without the gift of life from your loved one.
My Step-dad’s Birthday Wish
My step-dad told me his birthday wish was that I would receive my kidney/pancreas transplant soon. He went out to celebrate his birthday that night and I stayed home. At around 9pm, I received “The Call” that changed my life forever. All I remember is hearing the words, “You need to get to Denver”. Getting to Denver was a feat of 5+ hours of driving on a good day. I had to chase my family down and we hit the road within an hour.
Having spoken with the Wyoming Highway Patrol prior, we had permission to drive fast, but safely to get to Denver in time. My step-dad was in the back seat as he had celebrated his birthday with a drink or two and we took off into the dark Wyoming night. After about 2 hours of driving, we got pulled over by a Wyoming Highway Patrolman on a desolate stretch in the middle of nowhere.
The patrolman came to the window and we explained my situation. He said, “Oh! So you’re the ones we were told about. Please drive safe and good luck with the transplant! Best wishes!” Off we went with a smile and arrived in Denver by 2 am with adrenaline flowing. We were exhausted and scared, but excited.
Transplant CNA Doug
During my transplant and recovery in the hospital, I had the help of a CNA named Doug. Doug’s way of helping me get moving after surgery always made me giggle. He would say, “When you get up and out of that bed, I’ll take you dancing at the Rose!” The Grizzly Rose was one of the most well-known dancing saloons, for those who are not from the area. Even though we never got to go dancing, it was his way of making me smile and getting me moving.
Transplant CNA Ellis
Another CNA named Ellis was the absolute best CNA I ever had! Once, after my transplant was over and I was at home, I had to return to Denver for a follow-up visit. I went to the hospital transplant floor, walked out of the elevator with my mom and cousin Tracie. As I headed down the hall, there stood Ellis. My mom and Tracie have said it was like watching “two people running through a field of wildflowers toward each other,” as we hugged each other and reconnected. Sadly, that visit was the last time I got to see him, as he moved to Texas soon after. These cherished memories of the special people who helped me along my transplant journey all make me smile even to this day!
After receiving my transplant, I’ve been able to again enjoy camping, 4 -wheeling and getting back in to the mountains near my home. I love nature and find peace in it. I have traveled to places that I had not been before. I have enclosed some photos of some of my excursions and I hope that you are able to experience some joy as you enjoy “My Wyoming”, my home.
To my donor’s family, I am eternally grateful for your loving act of kindness bestowed on me, so that a stranger to you may be given a second chance at life. You and your loved one will never be forgotten, as I think of and continue to pray for them and your family every day. Thank You!
For information about the transplant centers in our area, please visit our Resources page here.
To talk about writing a letter to your donor’s family or your loved one’s recipients, please connect with our Aftercare Team here.