The Donation Process

How It All Works

We hope there will come a time when no one will die waiting for an organ transplant and no one will have to give up the hope of walking again or seeing again because the tissue they needed was not available. Thousands of people are waiting on the generosity of organ and tissue donors to change their lives. Although it is not easy to discuss death and the possibility of becoming a donor, we believe that helping everyone understand donation is critically important. We are confident that after you learn more about donation, you will be able to make an informed choice to give.

    • Medical Care Prior to Donation

      • Registering to be a donor will not affect your medical treatment if you become ill or injured. Organ and/or tissue recovery takes place only after all life-saving efforts have been exhausted and death has been legally declared. A transplant team is not contacted and no organs are removed before a person is pronounced dead – this includes brain death. The first priority is always to save a life.

    • Paving the Way

      • Sharing Hope SC maintains a close, collaborative relationship with more than 60 hospitals throughout South Carolina to help define, shape and guide their roles in the donation process. An important part of this ongoing effort is Sharing Hope SC’s professional hospital development staff, known as Hospital Development Coordinators. Each works with more than 10 hospitals in their assigned area of the state to ensure that the hospital staff understands the need for donation as well as the hospital’s legal compliance obligations and the best processes to follow in order to honor someone’s wish to donate.

        Dr. Rick Foster, Sharing Hope SC’s Senior Medical Advisor, works closely with the executive leadership in hospitals throughout the state to help facilitate understanding, compliance and process/quality improvement surrounding donation.

    • Sharing Hope SC is Notified

      • Potential organ, tissue and/or eye donors

        • Highly skilled Donor Coordinators staff our Sharing Hope SC Communications Center. They receive referral calls from hospital employees whenever anyone who has sustained a traumatic brain injury and meets specified clinical criteria and is at a South Carolina hospital for treatment. Causes for such injuries are often a car accident, a gunshot wound, a fall or a bleed on the brain.

          Because the Sharing Hope SC Communications Center is staffed around-the-clock, there is always someone available to receive the call and to relay the pertinent info to another Sharing Hope SC colleague who serves as an Administrator On Call (AOC). The AOC’s first concern is to dispatch a Sharing Hope SC Family Support Counselor (FSC) to the hospital who can provide emotional support to the family of the person who has been injured.

          If a patient progresses to brain death, first person authorization (also known as “registry” authorization) is checked in the South Carolina Donor Registry in accordance with South Carolina’s Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. The Donor Coordinator will work with the family to help fulfill the wishes of the eligible patient. If the patient is not a part of the donor registry, families are given the opportunity to choose organ, tissue and eye donation as an end-of-life option.

      • Potential tissue and/or eye donors

        • Donor Coordinators also receive calls from the acute care hospitals, coroner’s offices, nursing homes, hospice personnel and funeral homes for the entire state of South Carolina regarding patients who have been declared dead (cardiac death). The Donor Coordinators determine the person’s medical suitability as a potential tissue and/or eye donor. If determined to be eligible for donation, they then counsel families about their end-of-life options regarding tissue and eye donation.

          The goal of the Communications Center is to provide detailed information regarding the potential for donation through a compassionate approach, and then to facilitate the wishes of families who desire donation, provided their loved one meets the criteria for donation.

          When first person or family authorization is obtained, the Donor Coordinators arrange for the Sharing Hope SC Tissue Recovery Coordinators to recover the eyes and tissues.

      • Home deaths & donation

        • Terminally ill patients should talk to their next of kin and explain their end-of-life wishes regarding donation. Keep in mind that if you die at home you will not have the option of organ donation but can be considered for tissue and eye donation.

          At the time of the patient’s death, the next-of-kin or hospice personnel will need to initiate the donation process by calling Sharing Hope SC’s donor referral line any time of day at 800-269-9777. A Donor Coordinator will answer the call and obtain information regarding the patient’s age and medical history. From this information, the Donor Coordinator can determine eligibility for donation and guide the donation process from there.

      • Support at the hospital

        • A Sharing Hope SC Family Support Counselor (FSC) is a caring person who supports and educates the family members of patients who have suffered a severe brain injury. An FSC’s primary concern is always the family. When someone suffers a severe brain injury it is often sudden and unexpected.

          The Family Support Counselor is someone who comes to the hospital to comfort the family and walks them through one of the most tragic times in their life. A family support counselor is often a “companion” in the family’s  grief journey, as well as a source of information. Throughout the whole hospitalization, the Family Support Counselor is working with the hospital staff to ensure that the patient’s family is updated with the most current and accurate information.

          In the case of Spanish-speaking families, Sharing Hope SC makes every effort to provide a Spanish-speaking Family Support Counselor to bridge the communication gap that some families experience due to language barriers.

          The FSC stays with the family as long as they are at the hospital. This may be hours, or days or even a week. During that time, the Family Support Counselor assists the physicians and nurses in educating the family about neurological function and the various tests that are being performed to monitor the patient’s condition. If those tests ultimately confirm that the patient is brain dead, families often have great difficulty understanding what has occurred. The Family Support Counselor works closely with the hospital staff to help educate the family about brain death and to ensure they reach a clear understanding.

          If the physician determines and confirms that brain death has occurred, despite all efforts to save the patient, donation often becomes an option.

          If the patient is a candidate for donation, the FSC provides the family with end-of-life options and the information they need to make an informed decision about organ, eye and tissue donation.

          When first person authorization (also known as registry authorization) or family authorization has been given, the FSC guides the patient’s family through the process, does a thorough medical/social history on the potential donor, and assists the hospital staff in arranging for family members to say goodbye to their loved one.

          The FSC remains with the donor family as long as they are in the hospital and helps ensure a seamless transition introducing the clinical professionals that coordinate donor management and recovery.

    • Organ & Tissue Recovery

      • Organ recovery

        • After registry or family authorization has been given for donation, a We Are Sharing Hope SC team of clinical professionals works together to honor the family’s wishes for donation.

          The team assesses the donor and registers them with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) in preparation for locating the potential recipients.

          Once the recipient(s) have been located, We Are Sharing Hope SC makes the necessary arrangements to recover the organs and ensure that they are made available for transplantation.

      • Tissue recovery

        • After registry or family authorization has been given and a Sharing Hope SC Donation Coordinator has assessed and determined the donor’s suitability via conducting a thorough medical and social history with the donor’s next-of-kin, a Sharing Hope SC team of clinical specialists is dispatched to the hospital to perform the recovery process.

          Once the recovery process is completed, Sharing Hope SC sends the donor’s tissue to one of their processing partners’ facilities where it is prepared for transplantation/implantation.

    • Donation Outcome & Support

      • Outcome

        • After the organ, tissue and ocular recoveries are complete, the Family Support Counselor will contact the family to let them know the outcome of their gift.

          As time progresses, if the donor family wants to obtain information about the recipients, they may express their interest by contacting the Donor Family Services Department.

      • Support after donation

        • After the donation process is complete, donor families are never forgotten. Counselors in Donor Family Services are always available to provide the families with needed support throughout their grieving process. Some of the services available include one-on-one counseling, memorial ceremonies and events.

    • Donor Family Services

      • Donor Family Services (DFS) consists of certified grief counselors and our donor coordinator. Every donor family is very important to DFS and we have materials and support programs that we have created to meet the needs of each donor family. One aspect of donation sometimes confusing, is that some families are organ only donors, some families are tissue only donors and some families are both tissue and organ donors. Each of these families is considered a donor family. Although there are some differences between these three areas of donation, each donation is life saving and or life restoring. We adjust our donor family services to meet the needs of each family according to their specific type of donation, although every donor family, either tissue and or organ donor, have full access to the DFS staff.

      • Day-to-Day Services

        • Correspondence

          • Each donor family receives correspondence from DFS including a card or letter recognizing their loss and a Donor Family Bereavement Packet within the 1st month of the donation. Each Bereavement packet contains grief material, but additional grief material is available if needed, in English and Spanish.

            Since there are far fewer organ donors than tissue donors, the organ donor families receive a phone call from a DFS Counselor within the 1st two months. Every tissue donor family receives the business card of the DFS Counselor, with complete contact information included, providing each family the opportunity to call the Counselor at their own convenience during the 1st month after donation.

            After the DFS Coordinator receives the follow-up information on the recipients of the organ only donor, a letter outlining the outcome of the organ donation is mailed to the Next of Kin within 30 days of the donation.

            Tissue donor families are invited to contact the DFS Counselor if they would like information on the outcome of their loved one’s gift of tissue. The tissue is prepared and held in trust for 6 months after the donation. Once the 6 month preparation time has passed the tissue is made available for transplantation and at that point DFS can provide tissue outcome to families requesting it.

            For more information on connecting donor families with their recipients, please call and speak with someone from the Donor Family Services Department.

        • Donor Medal

          • Sharing Hope SC provides a donor medal to donor families in honor and remembrance of our donors. The medal was first introduced during our statewide Donor Family Ceremony in April 2005.

            We send out reply forms within three months of donation so that new donor families can request a donor medal. Some families place this special medal on the tombstone of their loved one while others keep it with other remembrance items.

        • Statewide Donor Family Ceremonies

          • Sharing Hope SC DFS sponsors holiday candlelight ceremonies and/or a statewide donor family ceremony annually. Our donor families are invited to share in these special times of honoring and remembering their loved ones who have given the greatest gift – life, sight and quality of life. During the ceremonies, donor names are called by their loved ones and/or photos are displayed. In addition, organ and tissue donor families are honored with special music and guest speakers, and are given an opportunity to acknowledge the giving of the gift of life.

        • National Donor Recognition Ceremony/US Transplant Games

          • Every two years Sharing Hope SC sponsors several donor families to be a part of the National Donor Recognition Ceremony in conjunction with the US Transplant Games. South Carolina’s donor families are awarded the opportunity to honor their loved ones and have them recognized amongst other donor families within fifty states on a national level. Donor families can reflect on the impact of donating life-saving or life-enhancing gifts that were instrumental in helping to save and improve lives.

Become a Donor Today

In 30 short minutes, three people will be added to the national transplant list, where approximately 120,000 people in the U.S. and over 1,000 in South Carolina are waiting for a life-saving transplant - 22 of those people will die today before receiving one. A single donation can make an enormous difference, both to the donor’s family and the recipient.

Register Now

Share the hope for life by becoming an organ & tissue donor.

1.800.462.0755|3950 Faber Pl Dr Suite 400, North Charleston, SC 29405

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