Focus on our Donation Partners
THE FAMILY BOX: CARING FOR DONOR FAMILIES
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.
One 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.
SPORTS MEDICINE TISSUE GRAFTS
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 Melinda.
STERNUM WITH COSTAL CARTILAGE
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.
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.
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 Melinda.
TRAVELING RIB SPREADER PROGRAM
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.
If you are a funeral home working with an organ donor family you will receive a call from our Funeral Director Liaison, 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, 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 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 Melinda DeVries.
HEART VALVE AND VASCULAR RECOVERY AND TRANSPLANT
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.
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 Melinda DeVries with questions about heart valve and vascular donation or care of the donor following donation.