Heart Transplant Survivor Helps Donor's Grieving Sister Heal

Here's what it's like on the grieving side of organ donation

Posted Dec 02, 2012

Donate Life?

Heart transplant survivor Lynn Hunter wears this heart around her neck.

Lynn Hunter’s big heart is helping me heal my broken heart.

Lynn is a Virginia mom in her mid-40s who, exactly one year ago, received the ultimate gift of life – a heart transplant.

Donating life

We “met” after I wrote about the experience of having lost the dearest person on earth to me, my brother, who was an organ donor and a perfect match for every single patient on the other side. The organ donation team told me he was the rarest of the rare, a “homerun donor.” He saved every life he touched. This made perfect sense in death, for it was just as it was in life: A Father’s Day Gift to My Nephew: Your Dad Healed Everyone He Met

This was of no comfort to me all. I just wanted (want) my beloved brother back – my life’s witness, my best friend, my most trusted confidant and though he was my younger brother, he was my greatest, wisest teacher. I wanted him back. I wrote about the awfulness of being on the wrong end of organ donation here:

Is Dick Cheney Too Old for a Heart Transplant? A Donor’s Sister Says That’s The Wrong Question

That began our journey together: Donate Life? A Heart Donor’s Sister Finds Comfort in Someone Else’s Gift

Finding healing from grief and loss

And then Lynn Hunter wrote to me about her heart, and her gratitude and guilt and the complicated experience of being on the joyful end of organ donation. Her note to me began what’s become a crucial, ongoing and extremely healing conversation for me. What she’s written has offered the only comfort I have found about the very unique and lonely pain of having your loved one be a heart donor.

Read our conversation: Donate Life? Two women, and a heart to heart between loss and life

About the Author

Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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