Hospital Honors Donors Through Special Ceremonies

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Donor families and friends never forget their loved ones. Some of the UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD) hospital partners give them special opportunities to remember them and their gift of life each year.


At Aspirus Wausau hospital, organ and tissue donation committee members plan a remembrance ceremony each spring at the R.W. Monk Botanical Gardens in Wausau. During the ceremony, donor families and transplant recipients speak about their experiences and local performers provide music. The hospital gives every donor family a fern to plant in the facility's Memory Grove Garden.


"This year, one woman whose son had recently died came by herself," says Samantha Taylor, hospital donation services specialist at UW OTD. "After she planted her fern, another family walked up and gave her a hug before she sat down. It is really moving to see the donor families come together and support each other."


"The Aspirus donation committee really takes a lot of pride in offering this special event for donor families," continues Samantha. "It is an opportunity to thank them for their gift."


Farther west, two Eau Claire hospitals have teamed up to remember organ and tissue donors. Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire-Luther Campus and Sacred Heart Hospital host a donor remembrance ceremony every other year in conjunction with two local tissue banks and UW OTD.


During the ceremony, a donor family and transplant recipient talk about how donation has helped them with their grief and healing journey. Each donor family submits photos of the donor, which are shown during a slide presentation. Each family also receives a small token to remember its loved one and the ceremony. This year's token was a butterfly ornament.


"It's a privilege to be able to help plan and attend the ceremony," says Susan Allen, hospital donation services specialist at UW OTD.

Hospitals that are interested in starting their own donor tribute ceremony are encouraged to work with their donation committee and UW OTD hospital donation services specialist, who will assist with donor speakers, program planning and connect hospitals with other staff that can help coordinate event promotion and media.