Focus on our Donation Partners


March 2015

LifeSource takes great pride in the support we provide to donor families in partnership with donor hospitals, medical examiners/coroners and funeral directors. LifeSource is committed to providing personal support to donor families both at the time of donation and in the months and years following their loved one’s death. Our Donor Family Advocates provide grief resources, facilitate correspondence between donor families and transplant recipients, and plan remembrance events and opportunities.

FD PacketFamily box interiors 001One of the resources we provide to families at the time of donation is the family box, which contains a placard recognizing the donor to be displayed at the funeral or memorial service, Donate Life lapel pins and a copy of The Next Place book.The family boxes are provided to organ donor families at the hospital by the LifeSource Donation Coordinator, along with a checklist that will assist in gathering information required to complete the death certificate and suggested phrases to include donation in the obituary.

Family boxes for tissue donor families are provided by the LifeSource Tissue Recovery Team in the Funeral Director/Family Material bag. These items are transported with the donor to the funeral home, where they are passed on to the family by the funeral director.

When presenting the box to the donor family at the funeral home, consider using this language:

I have been asked to present this box of family items to you by LifeSource, the organization that worked with you to fulfill your loved one’s donation.

We would like to display the placard commemorating your loved one’s donation.

Thank you for your role in ensuring that these items are released to the funeral home from the Medical Examiner/Coroner’s office and shared with the donor family at the time of arrangements or first viewing. Learn more about our commitment to donor families.


sportsinjuryApril 2014

Sports-related ligament injuries continue to grow each year, with nearly 1.5 million tendon, cartilage and meniscus repairs performed annually in the United States. Meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair account for 90% of the surgeries and the majority of those procedures involve the use of donated allograft tissue.

Ligament injuries can affect anyone – from the sports professional to the weekend walker. Allograft tissues are preferred due to their longevity and low rate of failure, but the need regularly exceeds the supply. In 2013, LifeSource recovered tendons, ligaments and fascia from 393 tissue donors, which will result in thousands of grateful recipients who will be able to return to active, productive lives.

The need is great and LifeSource is honored to offer hope and healing through the recovery of this gift. For more information about allograft tissue recovery, please contact Mike or Melinda.


November 2013

LifeSource has been selected as the primary tissue recovery agency to recover sternum with costal cartilage in collaboration with one of our tissue processing partners. Excellent tissue recovery technique, along with quick completion time for autopsy and toxicology reports, means that this special graft is being returned to hospitals and clinics in our area and across the nation.

Costal Cartilage Use1

Cartilage used in nose repair (source:MTF)

Sternum and costal cartilage grafts are transplanted in a variety of applications. In 2012, three sternums were transplanted due to malignancy in the recipient. The most common application is use of the cartilage for repair of the nose due to septal defects or trauma. Cartilage allografts may eliminate the need for autografts, providing positive outcomes and faster healing for the recipients.

Costal Cartilate Use2

Cartilage used in joint repair (source:MTF)

It is an honor to be tasked with recovering this gift and we want to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our medical examiner/coroner and funeral home partners. The sternum must be recovered prior to autopsy and can be recovered as a part of the musculoskeletal recovery or in conjunction with the recovery of heart for valves. Sternum recovery requires a standard Y- or U-shaped incision, similar to an autopsy incision. The entire sternum is removed to a width of 10 cm including portions of the ribs to ensure recovery of all transplantable cartilage.

When an autopsy will follow the recovery, the recovered sternum will be larger in size to allow for easier examination at autopsy. Following recovery, a thin, flexible plastic prosthetic is left in place to give shape to the chest following donation. We request that the pathology staff replace the prosthetic following autopsy to assist the funeral director during donor preparation. When sternum recovery occurs without heart valve recovery or autopsy, the tissue recovery team will alert the funeral director by placing a label on the donor which reads: STERNUM RECOVERED; HEART AND VASCULAR SYSTEM INTACT.

The need is great and LifeSource is honored to offer hope and healing through the recovery of this unique gift. For more information about sternum and costal cartilage recovery, please contact Mike or Melinda.


April 2013

Embalming an organ donor can be similar to an embalming following autopsy, although there are some unique challenges. In an effort to help you prepare the donor and support the families we both serve, LifeSource is launching a program to provide a special instrument called a rib spreader to funeral homes who are working with an organ donor family when autopsy will not follow organ recovery.

The organ donation incision typically consists of a midline incision through the sternum with a perpendicular incision in the abdomen, forming an inverted “T.” During the organ recovery, the transplant surgeons and LifeSource surgical recovery coordinators take care to isolate and tag the head vessels when recovering the heart and/or lungs, as well as the iliac arteries when recovering abdominal organs. When autopsy follows organ recovery, the thoracic and abdominal cavities can be accessed through the autopsy incisions by the embalmer. In cases where there is no autopsy, the embalmer needs safe and easy access to the chest cavity for embalming.

Rib spreaders are used in the surgical suite for access to the thoracic cavity and are helpful in the embalming process as well. This instrument is not normally part of the embalmer’s tool kit.

Traveling rib spreaders

Rib Spreader

If you are a funeral home working with an organ donor family you will receive a call from one of our Funeral Director Liaisons, Mike Burakowski or Melinda DeVries, when we learn that an organ donor will not be autopsied. If the embalmer chooses, rib spreaders will be sent with the donor to the funeral home with instructions on the use and cleaning of the instrument.

Following embalming, Mike or Melinda will arrange to pick up the rib spreaders directly from funeral homes in the Twin Cities and provide onsite follow up. For funeral homes outside of the Twin Cities, instructions for the prepaid return of the rib spreaders to LifeSource will be included in the packaging and Mike or Melinda will follow up with you by phone.

Feedback from embalmers has been great – the rib spreaders provide safe and easy access to the thoracic cavity to assist in the preparation of the organ donor. We look forward to offering this helpful instrument to you. If you have questions, feel free to contact Mike Burakowski or Melinda DeVries.


December 2012

LifeSource has partnered with Cytonet to offer families another donation option to provide a safe treatment for patients with severe genetic and metabolic liver disease.

Cytonet accepts non-transplantable livers gifted to research from donors age 32 weeks gestation to 70 years. Liver cells are isolated and are infused into recipients with diseases such as Urea Cycle Deficit, providing an effective treatment for the disease or a bridge until a liver is available for transplant. This therapy is in FDA clinical trials at four locations throughout the US, which is why research authorization must be obtained from the donor family.

Coordination with the medical examiner/pathologist is important when an autopsy will follow recovery of the liver. LifeSource and Cytonet can provide recovery photos, liver processing photos, biopsies of the liver for microscopic examination and if requested, the caudal portion of the liver for testing by the pathologist.

Over the past year, LifeSource has worked with local hospitals and Cytonet to recover four livers. Multiple patients can be treated from one donated liver, providing hope and healing to those who have received this innovative treatment and those still waiting.

For more information on Cytonet, visit their website or contact Mike or Melinda at LifeSource.


September 2012

LifeSource recovers heart valves and a variety of vascular grafts, providing hope and healing to recipients of all ages.

Human heart valve replacement has eliminated the need for anticoagulant drugs and the concern of calcification that might cause early removal of a replacement heart valve. As a result, the human heart valve has become the heart valve of choice in treating young active adults, women of childbearing age, and children under the age of 15.

Pulmonary Valve

Pulmonary Valve

Heart valves can be recovered from newborn donors up to age 55 and aortic valves, pulmonic valves and pulmonary artery patches are returned to hospitals for transplant.

Human vascular allografts have been implanted to treat a variety of vascular reconstructions such as peripheral bypass, hemodialysis access, and aortic infections which have saved the lives and limbs of patients.Vascular grafts can be recovered from donors age 15-55 and include the saphenous vein, femoral artery and vein, descending thoracic aorta and aortoiliac artery.

In the first half of 2012, over 150 heart valve and vascular grafts recovered by LifeSource have been returned to hospitals for transplant.

Please contact Mike Burakowski or Melinda DeVries with questions about heart valve and vascular donation or care of the donor following donation.


JULY 2012

LifeSource has partnered with Allosource to recover knee cartilage from pediatric donors to provide hope and healing to many grateful recipients. Juvenile cartilage cells have superior regenerative properties and are transplanted as living tissue implants into the knee joint, offering another option to recipients who might otherwise need a total knee replacement.

Clinical studies are also underway utilizing these same cartilage cells for treatment of degenerative disc disease in the spine. This cell expansion technology is less invasive than discectomy or spinal fusion surgery and is another exciting opportunity to provide hope and healing.

Over 50 families have authorized juvenile cartilage recovery in the past three years in the LifeSource region. While one juvenile cartilage donor can help an average of 20 recipients, over 200 transplantable grafts were recently returned to our communities for transplant from one local LifeSource donor!

With this type of donation, the knee joint is recovered and reconstructed with a wood prosthetic. Unlike heart valve donation, juvenile cartilage recovery can take place after autopsy, offering this donation option to families who might not otherwise have the opportunity to donate.

Please contact Mike Burakowski or Melinda DeVries with any questions about juvenile cartilage donation or care of the donor following donation.



MARCH 2012

In 2011, Medical Examiners, Coroners, Funeral Directors and Law Enforcement referred over 300 potential donors to LifeSource. Patients who die outside of a medical facility would not be evaluated for tissue and eye donation if not for the dedication of these donation partners who made the referral to 1-800-24SHARE.

As a result of those referrals, 125 tissue donors will result in over 6,000 healing tissue grafts, offering hope and healing to many grateful recipients.

Consider making a donation referral from a death scene when you notice “Donor” on a license or ID card or when a family mentions donation. Call 1-800-24SHARE with this information about the potential donor:

  • Name and date of birth
  • Name and all available phone numbers for the next of kin
  • Time of death and/or time last seen alive
  • Circumstances surrounding the death
  • Any known medical history
  • Funeral home name and phone number

The LifeSource Communication Specialist will approach the family about donation and will coordinate the recovery with the pathologist and the funeral home,

Thank you for your continued commitment to donation and your efforts to offer and hope and healing to many waiting recipients.

Donation in your community

March 2011

LifeSource worked with you to serve the families of more than 470 tissue donors in 2010. LifeSource works very closely with our tissue  partners to ensure that tissue recovered by LifeSource is returned  to our local hospitals and clinics for life-saving and healing surgeries.  Over 15,000 tissue grafts from LifeSource donors were returned to communities in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota last year. Here are a few places near you:

Albert Lea Medical Center, Albert Lea, MN
Big Fork Valley, Big Fork, MN
Murry City Memorial Hospital, Slayton, MN
Northwest Medical Center, Thief River Falls, MN

Sioux Falls Surgical Center, Sioux Falls, SD
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital , Yankton, SD
Rapid City Regional Hospital, Rapid City, SD
Avera St. Luke’s, Aberdeen, SD

OMS Associates, LTD and MeritCare, Fargo, ND
Trinity Medical Center, Minot, ND
St. Alexius Medical Center and MedCenter One, Bismarck, ND
St. Joseph Hospital Healthcare, Dickson, ND

Chances are you have been to one of these hospital or clinics or know someone who has!  Thank you for your help in sharing these wonderful and healing gifts with men, women and children in our communities.