Not long after I began trying to track down the recipients, medical privacy laws brought me to a screeching halt. All I could learn were the steps required for a family member to follow.
I wrote Kelly an email, telling her she would need to personally approach the organ transplant coordinator at the hospital where her mother was treated. The person I had talked to recommended she write a letter addressed to the person who received the donation. They said in the letter, she should tell something about the donor and how much it would mean to meet them just once, and then include contact information. The transplant coordinator would then get the letter to the recipients, and it would be up to them whether to make contact.
I felt as though like I was letting Kelly down because that's all I could get, but she took it from there. And her results were fast. I expected it would take months, but it didn't.
Kelly contacted the hospital where her mom passed away and was given the number for the organ donation center that had received her mom's organs.
"Within the hour, I was told two families had been given my mother's corneas and that those recipients had already sent a letter requesting contact with the donor's family. They then put me in contact with a mediation center that allowed me to do a three-way call with each recipient. I was able to speak to the people who my mom gave sight to! I was also informed that she had saved a man's life with her bone donation. That family had already requested contact too, so I'm waiting to be put in touch with them through the tissue center. They told me I will be receiving photos of the people my mother helped save. And I was also notified she was given the bronze star because her donations were not rejected by anyone!"
Kelly posted on Facebook about what she'd learned about her mom's organs and soon began receiving messages from all over. In the days since, Kelly said her phone and email seem to go off constantly with people wanting to share their donation or recipient story, or simply telling personal stories they had about her mom.
Kelly said it's like Christmas is still going on, that each new contact is another gift. That her mom is still around. That she had things yet to do.
That she continues to live on in so many people.
"I would love for you to write about my mom because I truly believe my mom still has work to do," Kelly wrote.
So many families whose loved ones donated their organs don't realize it's possible to be in contact with the recipients, and there are so many who don't understand organ donation at all.
Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinful...@gmail.com.