Tag Archive for: donor family support

MTN Community Spotlight: Imagine the impact of a generous donation

A middle school multipurpose room with a performance stage. Rows of black stackable chairs with slips of purple paper to mark seat numbers for the ticketed show. Long tables filled with brightly wrapped candy, sweet treats and the smell of spun sugar from a cotton candy machine complement the anticipation.

It’s opening night.

The lights dim.

The curtain rises.

The show begins.

“Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination.” ~ Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

 

Students and families at Harmony Middle School in the Blue Valley School District raised $2,856 from their spring musical, “Willy Wonka,” and donated the ticket sales to Midwest Transplant Network in honor of a donor hero family.

Annually, the student cast gets to nominate a charity. Students give a quick speech about an organization that’s had an impact on them, and the cast votes to choose “the most deserving.” David Davis, theater director at Harmony Middle School, said this is the 15th year of the benefit performance.

Five people standing center stage in front of a curtain. Fourth person from the left is holding a microphone and reading from a sheet of paper.

The Dirks family and Midwest Transplant Network staff are center stage during intermission at Harmony Middle School in the Blue Valley School District.

This year, students Belle and Beau Dirks successfully advocated for MTN with their personal story. Their father, Josh Dirks, passed away in November 2021 and became an organ donor hero by way of his heart.

During intermission, the Dirks family took center stage – Belle and Beau, mom Tiffany, and sister Ella. Belle shared their organ donation journey from written remarks while Beau held a large, framed photo of their dad. Their grandparents, younger sister and family friends were in the audience, beaming with pride and emotion.

“…The day he went to heaven was the hardest day of my life. We were in his hospital room when they told us that he wasn’t coming home. There were so many people in the room, but I remember one lady, Ms. Gretchen, from Midwest Transplant Network. She hugged all of us and told us that it was going to be ok.

“…She told us what it means to be a donor, how important his decision was, and how he would be able to help someone else continue to live. Then, she laid a blanket on him that had the word HERO printed on it.”

Belle shared more of their story, then closed with a clear call to action:

“I know it is a difficult decision to become an organ donor, but I encourage you to sign up. Their motto is GIVE HOPE, SHARE LIFE — and that is what you do when you sign up to be an organ donor.

“You never know, you just might become a HERO in someone else’s story – Just like my daddy did!!”

The audience applauded.

The lights dimmed.

Five people are center stage during intermission at a school musical, posing for a photo.

The Dirks family and MTN staff after presenting a contribution to Midwest Transplant Network. From left to right: Tiffany Dirks, mom; Nichole Asquith, MTN; Beau holds a photo of Josh Dirks, father and donor hero; Belle and Ella Dirks.

And the show went on.

Midwest Transplant Network is appreciative to the students, families, teachers and staff of Harmony Middle School and their generous contribution to support organ, eye and tissue donation, and MTN is humbled to be a part of the Dirks family organ donation journey.

Please learn more about what it means to become a registered organ donor at mwtn.org.

Ornament with tag

Bringing Light to a Sometimes-Bittersweet Season

Ornament with tag

The holidays can evoke memories of time spent with loved ones and family traditions. This time of year can be particularly difficult for those who have lost loved ones, including families and friends of all donor heroes.

Toward the end of each calendar year, amid many holidays, Midwest Transplant Network hosts Hope for the Holidays, a time to remember donor heroes and celebrate the gift of life. This year, families will be treated to a special screening of the holiday movie “Elf” in Kansas City’s historic Union Station.

“Hope for the Holidays is a chance for families of our donor heroes to come together in remembrance and celebration during what can be a very difficult time of the year,” said Donor Family Services Coordinator Denise Cooper. “We are honored and humbled to spend time with donor families each holiday season.”

Donor families will bring an ornament to honor their loved one that will hang on an MTN-branded holiday tree complete with presents underneath sporting “Give Hope. Share Life.” wrapping paper. Union Station guests from all over the country can see the tree near the movie theater concession area through Monday, Jan. 3. Along with enjoying the beautiful tree, they will have a chance to join the national organ, eye and tissue donor registry at registerme.org/hopefortheholidays and share hope this holiday season with the 100,000 individuals waiting for lifesaving and life-enhancing transplants.

From everyone at MTN, we wish you a peaceful holiday season.

Hope for the HolidaysHope for the Holidays

MTN Donor Family Coordinators

Donor Family Coordinators

Donor Family Coordinators Kara Gartner (left) and Denise Cooper

This week, we’re highlighting Midwest Transplant Network’s Donor Family Support program — made up of caring staff members who communicate with and provide care for donor families after their loved one’s donation. In our first post, we heard from Donation Communications Coordinators Jessica Cleary and Lindy Maska. For today’s post, Donor Family Coordinators Denise Cooper and Kara Gartner answered a few questions about their roles.

Briefly describe what Donor Family Coordinators do.

Donor Family Coordinators are responsible for all communication between donor families and recipients. We also provide recipient follow up to donor families upon request.

Another big part of our job is planning all the celebrations and special events for donor families.

For how long will MTN support a donor family after their loved one’s donation?

MTN’s formal Donor Family Support program is two years, but all families have the opportunity to stay on our mailing list indefinitely. Families are also able to rejoin at any time by filling out a request on our Serenity Newsletter page at mtn.org/serenity.

What are donor family events, and how can families get involved?

Each year, MTN hosts a variety of donor family days for all our donor families to attend. In recent years, we have held events at the Kansas City Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo, Warm Springs Ranch and the Joplin Pumpkin Patch. MTN donor family events are a great way to meet other donor families while also remembering your loved one.

We also host our Celebration of Heroes in Kansas City, Wichita, Joplin and Columbia. The Celebration of Heroes is a way to honor organ, eye and tissue donors and their families. MTN presents each family with a beautifully handcrafted stained-glass heart to honor their loved one. Families also have the opportunity to pin their quilt square on the Donor Memorial Quilt during the celebration.

Information about how to register for the next celebration and donor family events will be in the Serenity newsletters and on the MTN website.

How can a donor family communicate with their loved one’s recipient(s)? Similarly, how can a transplant recipient communicate with their donor’s family?

Correspondence with your loved one’s recipients has no time limit. We will continue to forward communication to both parties regardless of a donor family’s participation in our Donor Family Support program.

When a donor family decides to write to their loved one’s recipients, they would send the letter to MTN. We then forward the letter to the recipient’s transplant center, and it is forwarded to the recipient.

When a recipient writes to their donor’s family, they give the letter to their transplant center coordinator. The coordinator then forwards the letter to MTN, and we then send it to the family.

Can donor families who initially do not wish to receive support from MTN later connect with the Donor Family Support program? If so, how?

Yes, the opportunity to receive support from MTN is always available. If at any time a family would like to be added to our newsletter mailing list or has any questions, they can call us at 913-262-1668 or connect with us through our website at mwtn.org/contact-us.

What is the one thing you’d want to tell someone who knows nothing about your work?

It is an honor to support donor families whose loved ones have given the gift of organ, eye or tissue gifts.

Why should people say “yes” to organ, eye and tissue donation?

A YES to donation is one of the most selfless and generous things a person can do. Donation can help someone’s child, sister/brother, mother/father, etc. and give a stranger the gift of life or enhance their lives with tissue donation. These gifts cause a ripple effect, touching so many other lives.

MTN Donation Communications Coordinators

Photo of MTN's Donation Communications Coordinators

Donation Communications Coordinators Lindy Maska (left) and Jessica Cleary

This week, we’re highlighting Midwest Transplant Network’s Donor Family Support program — made up of caring staff members who communicate with and provide care for donor families after their loved one’s donation. In this first post, we hear from Donation Communications Coordinators Jessica Cleary and Lindy Maska.

Briefly describe what Donation Communications Coordinators do.

We coordinate follow-up with all our organ, eye and tissue donor families to provide information about the gifts their loved one was able to donate. We also coordinate follow-up with the clinical staff involved in the donation so that they can see the impact their work has on saving and improving lives. After the initial donation, we provide ongoing support to donor families as we continue to remember and appreciate their loved one’s legacy of providing hope and life to others.

How many letters do you send out to families each month? To transplant centers? To donor hospitals?

There is a lot of variation in the number of letters sent out weekly, but very roughly:

  • We send about 170 tissue and organ outcome letters out to families each month.
  • We send around 800 follow-up letters each month to families three months, six months, one year and two years after their loved one’s donation.
  • We send about 750 letters to donor hospitals per month.

How do Donation Communications Coordinators work with other members of the Donor Family Support Program to provide ongoing support for donor families?

We help with the planning and execution of events for our donor families as well as work with the Donor Family Services Coordinators to ensure families receive any additional support they may need, from donor hero bracelets to grief resources.

What is the one thing you’d want to tell someone who knows nothing about your work?

For many families, knowing who their loved one was able to help through donation provides a great deal of hope in a difficult time as they realize that their loved one’s legacy lives on.

What are some typical degrees and/or career paths staff members pursue before joining the Donor Family Support Program?

There is really no typical degree staff members pursue before joining the Donor Family Support Program. The most important quality of someone joining our department is a desire to help others through their grief journey.

Why should people say “yes” to organ, eye and tissue donation?

The opportunity to help others through donation is more unique than many people realize; not every person who says “yes” will necessarily be a donor. However, by saying “yes,” you provide hope to the thousands of people who are awaiting transplant.