Getting Back to Normal: The Gift of Wellness

One part of my recent DeNovo NT surgery may not be apparent: the tissue transplant comes from a deceased donor. And in my case, that donor was a child.

Juvenile tissue transplants are better than using tissue donated from an adult for a number of reasons. As far as cartilage goes, it’s more proliferative, meaning it will grow faster and, hopefully, into the right kind of cartilage. I’m young, but my surgeon, Dr. Maiers, believes it will provide a “more robust response” than my own cartilage might have. I am so incredibly thankful that I had this option, but I felt unsettled about receiving tissue donated from such a young person.

I’m a big proponent of organ and tissue donation. I’m signed up with the National Marrow Donor Program (“Be the match”). I’ll be happy if anyone can use my organs when I’m done. I’d probably give away a kidney now if someone I love needed it more. But I’ve never once thought about what it might be like on the receiving end of such a beautiful gift.

When I was done with surgery, I was handed two small cards––one for each of the two packs of DeNovo NT I received. These cards allow me to send a thank you note through the Pathways Thank You Letter Program. I can let the donor family know how I hope to benefit from their generous and selfless gift and how their sacrifice will improve my life.

I welcome this opportunity and want to find just the right words to express my profound gratitude.

Dear Donor Family,

I am writing to thank you for the thoughtful and incredibly generous gift of tissue donation from your precious family member. I am so sorry for your loss, but I want you to know that your decision to donate has changed my life in a very meaningful way.

I never really imagined myself in a position where I would need the latest in surgical repair. I never imagined that I would be on the receiving end of such a generous gift. I think it’s just human nature; no one ever really expects to be so sick or in so much pain.

A little over two weeks ago, I had reconstructive knee surgery to repair damage that was getting progressively worse after the initial injury two years ago. I needed a tissue transplant because I could no longer do simple, everyday tasks without pain. The tissue was used to replace the cartilage on the back of my kneecap where it had nearly worn away.

My hope with this surgery is that I can work toward doing all the things I used to do and to get through the day without pain. I’ve become an avid cyclist, and I’m holding out hope that I can hit the road again soon. With every mile, I’ll know the obvious benefit of your selfless gift.

For this I am very grateful to you and your family. My family and I will always remember your act of kindness and generosity.

Thank you,


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