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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.

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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.

Photographic image of Megan and Chris Paone

Family Services Manager Shares About Her Donor Hero

Chris Paone Donor Memorial Card image

Chris’ Donor Memorial Card

Hello! My name is Megan Paone, and I am the Manager, Family Services here at MTN. Chris was my husband of almost 10 years. Chris was medically very sick and was hospitalized in November 2020, the night before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, he became very unstable on day four of his intensive care unit stay, and it was apparent the amazing medical team had done everything medically that they could do for him.

Once I made the very difficult decision to stop aggressive therapies and keep him comfortable, I was not even thinking about Chris being an organ donor — he was so sick and was not like what I thought of a “typical” patient who would be an eligible organ donor. I have worked at MTN for more than seven years and live donation daily, and it still did not cross my mind in my cloud of grief. The wonderful nurse called in the referral to MTN while I was calling my family to return to the hospital to say their goodbyes.

I then received a call from Family Services Coordinator Gretchen, and she shared that it was believed that Chris could actually be a donor and save the lives of two people through kidney donation. When I heard this news, my intense sadness turned to hope, and I felt a huge wave of peace fall over me. He died peacefully right after 9 p.m. with our family by his side.

He then went to the operating room and was able to save the lives of two people here in the Midwest with his kidneys: a 70-year-old man and a 53-year-old woman. These two people’s lives were saved because of my husband and the forward thinking of our amazing clinical staff at MTN. It gives me a sense of peace every day to know this, and it has really helped me along my grief journey.

Our thanks to Megan Paone, LMSW, for writing this guest blog post.

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MTN Family Services

Photo of John Michael Segars

Family Services Coordinator John Michael Segars, PharmD

 

As we continue to highlight our talented teams, we look next at the compassionate individuals who support families through some of their most difficult moments. Our Family Services staff members work with families whose loved one has the potential to donate an organ(s). To learn more about this unique and powerful profession, we asked Family Services Coordinator II John Michael Segars, PharmD, to answer these questions.

Briefly describe what Family Services Coordinators (FSCs) do.

  • Family Services Coordinators are the wonderful people who support families on the worst days of their lives. We are there to provide compassion and kindness during a tragic loss to help families in moments of grief. We approach families during this difficult time of losing someone, and we offer them the opportunity to save and enhance lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. Many families see this as the only bit of light on the darkest of days when they realize their loved one can be a hero.

How long do Family Services Coordinators typically spend with a family throughout the donation process? What type(s) of support do they provide?

  • In general, we can spend several hours with a family, but this can vary; sometimes our relationships with families last days, weeks or years, depending on the connection and aftercare provided. I think of our role as listeners. We provide grief support in every way, whether that be hearing family members tell their story, hugging them as they cry, making calls to help them find a funeral home so we can provide a path to next steps, etc.

Why do specially trained individuals approach families about donation instead of the patient’s nurse, doctor, etc.?

  • We have a Midwest Transplant Network Family Services Coordinator approach families because we want to keep a distinction between the care being provided by the hospital staff and conversations about next steps occurring once a death has taken place or a decision for comfort care has been made. We don’t want to put our hospital partners in a position of having a conflict of interest in any way.

How might Family Services Coordinators support families who are on the fence about donation?

  • I personally like to make a connection with the family and learn about who their loved one was. Let’s say Larry was a police officer who was passionate about serving his community and died while on duty. His family isn’t sure about donation. I may ask questions about him and how he lived his life. I’d bring it back to what Larry would have wanted. I’d ask his family if he was the type of man that helped others. I may ask them if Larry knew they were making a loving decision on his behalf to help someone else, would he be supportive of that decision? I’d also discuss recipients and how donation doesn’t just benefit the life or lives saved — it also enhances the experiences of that person’s family members and friends, creating a ripple effect of positivity in communities.

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

  • I would say that I work in organ, eye and tissue donation with the most amazing team on Earth because they make miracles happen. I have always felt so honored to be a part of the process that is connected to the phone call a patient will receive that will save his or her life. We work hard to honor our donors as the heroes they are to save lives of individuals we will never meet.

What are some typical degrees and/or career paths staff members pursue before joining the Family Services department?

  • We have myriad backgrounds in our department. Most common are social work, nursing and ministry/divinity, but we have a wonderful foliage of differing backgrounds in the Family Services department, from pharmacy to business to funeral directing, etc.

Have Family Services Coordinators’ roles shifted during the pandemic? If so, how?

  • We have increased the number of phone approaches we do, as families are not always allowed at the hospital due to coronavirus-related visitor restrictions. We also are now approaching families on COVID-19-positive patients so we can make sure we are offering the opportunity to save a life to anyone with an eligible gift.

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

  • This is a very personal decision that should be right for each individual. For me, it is all about leaving a legacy of helping someone else. To this day, I get chills on my arms when a family brings up donation before we arrive onsite because it tells me that on one of their worst days, they are thinking of how to help someone else. In my job, I truly get to witness the very best of people.

Anything else you’d like to add?

  • We’re hiring! We’d love to add eligible, compassionate people to our family! View our current job openings here.

MTN CEO Jan Finn Joins MTF Biologics Board of Directors

EDISON, NJ (March 10, 2020) — MTF Biologics, a global nonprofit organization that saves and heals lives by honoring donated gifts, serving patients and advancing science, recently announced that Midwest Transplant Network President/Chief Executive Officer Jan Finn has joined the organization’s Board of Directors.

“MTF Biologics is excited to welcome Jan onto our Board of Directors,” said Joe Yaccarino, President and Chief Executive Officer at MTF. “Jan brings nearly 30 years of organ procurement experience to the MTF Biologics Board. She is extremely passionate about our work to provide high-quality tissue grafts from donated human tissue and understands the positive impact that the gift of donation has on the lives of both recipients and donor families. We know that she will be an invaluable asset to our MTF team.”

At MTN, Finn is responsible for overseeing the executive leadership of a team that directs all organ and tissue donation operations in Kansas and western Missouri. Under her leadership, MTN increased its donation rates and recovery of organs and tissues to record levels. MTN ranks in the top quartile nationally among other OPOs.

Finn currently serves on the Missouri Governor’s Advisory Council on Organ and Tissue Donation, the Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Committee for the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations and as a board member for the Gift of Life Foundation and the National Organ Donation Alliance. She is a past president of the North American Transplant Coordinators Organization and became a Certified Procurement Transplant Coordinator through the American Board for Transplant Coordination.

Finn began her career at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri, working for 13 years as a registered nurse primarily in critical care. She holds undergraduate degrees from Missouri Southern State University and Pittsburg State University, as well as Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Kansas. She was a member of the Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society and was credentialed as a CCRN by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

“I am delighted to join my friends at MTF Biologics as a member of their Board of Directors,” said Finn. “MTF Biologics remains a global leader in tissue and organ transplantation, and I look forward to working with the Board to help further MTF’s legacy of honoring donors and saving and healing lives.”

 

About Midwest Transplant Network

Midwest Transplant Network has been connecting lives through organ donation since 1973. As the federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) for Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri, Midwest Transplant Network provides services including organ procurement; surgical tissue and eye recovery; laboratory testing and 24-hour rapid response for referrals from hospital partners. Midwest Transplant Network ranks in the top 10% in the country among OPOs, which reflects the organization’s quality, professionalism and excellence in partnerships throughout the region. For more information, visit mwtn.org.

About MTF Biologics

MTF Biologics is a global nonprofit organization that saves and heals lives by honoring donated gifts, serving patients and advancing science.. They provide unmatched service, resources, and expertise to donors and their loved ones who give the gift of donation, people who depend on tissue and organ transplants, healthcare providers and clinicians and scientists.
The International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine (IIAM), a Division of MTF Biologics, honors donors of non-transplantable organs by providing their gifts to the medical research community to combat and cure diseases. Statline, also a Division of MTF Biologics, provides specialized communications and technology expertise to organ, tissue and eye procurement organizations, as well as the hospitals and patients that they serve. Its sister organization, Deutsches Institute for Zell-und Gewebeersatz – DIZG (The German Institute for Cell and Tissue Transplantation) expands its reach to patients across the globe. For more information, visit mtfbiologics.org.

 

Organ, Eye and Tissue Donors Saved or Improved Record Number of Lives in 2019

WESTWOOD, Kan. (Jan. 22, 2020) — Midwest Transplant Network is celebrating a record year in 2019, surpassing its previous milestones for number of organs transplanted, organ donors, eye/tissue donors and laboratory tests performed.

Midwest Transplant Network, the not-for-profit organ procurement organization serving Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri, enabled 929 lifesaving organ transplants — a 14% increase compared with 2018. Those gifts came from 282 donor heroes, which represented an 4% increase. MTN also procured gifts from 1,895 eye/tissue donors, a jump of 13% from 2018.

“Our record-breaking year is a testament to the selflessness of our donor heroes and their families, our hard-working staff and our dedicated hospital and community partners,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Jan Finn, RN, MSN. “I’m honored to have colleagues such as our clinical staff who work around the clock to care for donor heroes; those who support donor families throughout their grief journeys; those who ensure safety for transplant recipients in our lab; those who educate the community about the donation registry; those who work with our hospital partners; and the transplant center teams who care for the recipients.”

MTN’s award-winning histocompatibility lab performed 8% more tests compared with the previous year, totaling 31,277 tests assessing blood work for potential matches for organ, tissue and bone marrow transplantation, as well as post-transplant monitoring.

MTN’s performance metric increases reflect a national upward trend for the organ transplant system. The United Network for Organ Sharing reports that nationwide, clinical workers performed nearly 40,000 lifesaving transplants — the seventh consecutive record-breaking year for this data point and a 9% increase from 2018.

Despite transplant increases nationally and locally, the waiting list grows. More than 112,000 people around the country need a lifesaving organ transplant — with 446 of those people living in Kansas and 1,725 in Missouri.

MTN also continues its comprehensive multiyear initiative known as the Green Ribbon Campaign to raise awareness and encourage registration to the organ donor registry. The goal is to promote recognition of the green ribbon as a badge of honor representing the selfless act of becoming a registered organ, eye and tissue donor and the lifesaving impact that donation can provide.

Supporting the campaign are the Green Ribbon Champions, a diverse group of local and regional leaders and well-known personalities who are passionate about increasing the number of registered organ donors in our communities across Kansas and Missouri.

As a result of the campaign and MTN’s other awareness efforts, 80% of adults in Kansas and 78% in Missouri are registered organ donors. While those numbers are strong, MTN is committed to raising them even higher in 2020 because the need for donors still outpaces the number of registrants.

“While I am incredibly proud of the care our staff provided donors, donor families and recipients in 2019, we have so much more work to do to ensure we continue saving more lives and driving more people to the donor registry,” Finn said. “With the support we receive from our outstanding hospital partners, transplant centers, DMV offices and volunteers, the possibilities for what we can accomplish are limitless.”

* National transplant numbers, national waiting list number and state waiting list numbers as of Jan. 16, 2020.

 

About Midwest Transplant Network

Midwest Transplant Network has been connecting lives through organ donation since 1973. As the federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) for Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri, Midwest Transplant Network provides services including organ procurement; surgical tissue and eye recovery; laboratory testing and 24-hour rapid response for referrals from hospital partners. Midwest Transplant Network ranks in the top 10% in the country among OPOs, which reflects the organization’s quality, professionalism and excellence in partnerships throughout the region. For more information, visit mwtn.org.