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The Chance of a Lifetime: How Recipients Meet Their Donors

Aug 26, 2011 by Gift of Life News

Lisa joined the registry at a drive held on Mitzvah Day at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, CA in 2005. An employee of the synagogue, Lisa had been working on other aspects of the event and barely had time to be tested. She made it over just as the booth was shutting down for the day, and it’s a good thing she did. Four years later, she was shown to be a perfect match for Michele, who had been diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.

Lisa donated bone marrow in March 2009 at the University of Maryland Hospital. Little did she know her recipient Michele was just a few miles away at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center waiting for her life-saving cells to be delivered. The two met just over one year later in New York when they were introduced by Michele’s friend, Bill, a long-time Gift of Life supporter. Michele remembers the experience of meeting Lisa as one of the most exciting and memorable of her life (other than her wedding, of course!), and she says that Lisa is “a very kind, generous person with a good heart who will be a friend for life.” 

Oftentimes, our donors ask, “when can I meet my recipient?”  The answer lies in the guidelines and policies set by the countries and registries who request our donors. The guidelines set by the United States and Gift of Life’s policies require a system that ensures the privacy of both donors and recipients. Donors are informed at the time of donation that the process is anonymous, though they can know the recipient’s age, sex, and diagnosis. Donors can even request updates on the patient’s status from the transplant center at one month and six months after transplantation, and then annually for five years.

During the first year following the transplant, both parties are allowed to have anonymous contact, which means that any letters, cards, or gifts sent must not include any personal or identifying information that reveal a donor’s name, location, or other specifics. Anonymous contact can take place through the donor center or the recipient’s transplant center, and both will check to make sure that no personal details are revealed.  Photos, gifts of high monetary value, and personally mixed CDs or DVDs are also not permitted during the first year.

After one year, donors and recipients may meet by mutual written agreement. If both parties do not consent, they cannot meet. This rule applies as long as all aspects of the search, donation and/or transplant process has taken place in the United States; if any part of the process takes place in a different country, other guidelines must be adhered to. Some countries prohibit contact, and Gift of Life can help either party find out what the specific guidelines are in other countries. 

Having the opportunity to meet your donor or recipient is a once in a lifetime experience. Some never get the chance to meet, but those that do develop a lifelong friendship. Gift of Life is extremely grateful and proud of the men and women who have donated, as well as all members of the registry.  We are always here to answer any questions and look forward to continuing to help connect donors and recipients.


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