Information for donor families

The organ donation journey

The UW OTD team extends its deepest sympathies to you and your family as you journey through the donation process. We support you throughout your journey and share this information to help you understand the process. Your loved one is a life-saving hero. Thank you.

The donation journey

We understand that this can be an emotionally exhausting time. Our team will support you in any way that we can. The hospital staff members and/or UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD) personnel can communicate with you at any time, from any location, so please feel free to ask questions. Remember that it’s ok to take breaks or go home. The hospital staff and the UW OTD coordinator work together throughout the entire process and are always available to answer your questions.

This sheet will help you understand the donation journey (pdf)

Organ donation process

Donation is a gift of life, generously given to save and improve other people’s lives. The resource below was designed to help you and your family better understand the donation process. While the timelines are not exact, we hope this information will provide a general understanding of what needs to happen before the recovery of your loved one’s organs occurs.

Learn more about the 5 steps of the organ donation process (pdf)

Centralized Recovery Center (CRC)

A CRC is a physical location dedicated to the recovery of donated organs. Centralizing organ recovery is a national best practice proven to provide thoughtful care and positive outcomes for everyone involved in the organ donation process. For donor families, a CRC has been proven to be a better experience because it provides a more predictable and timely experience. Across the nation, hospitals served by a centralized organ recovery center have stated that most families find closure when they say goodbye when their loved one leaves the hospital where they are currently being served.

If your loved one is transferring to the CRC:

A UW OTD staff member will arrange transportation from the hospital serving the donor to the CRC, with care provided by UW MedFlight ground or air services.

There are no transportation charges to donors, their families or other hospitals.

UW MedFlight will be available to meet with donor families prior to transfer. The UW MedFlight team takes great pride in serving organ donors and is grateful for their selfless gifts of life.

Families will not travel with their loved one and most choose to spend their last moments together prior to their loved one leaving the hospital where they are currently being served.

Families who opt to travel and wait at the UW Organ and Tissue Donation Centralized Recovery Center at UnityPoint Health-Meriter should alert UW OTD in person or by calling (608) 720-6878.

Once family intent is confirmed, families may use the main UPH-Meriter hospital entrance. A hospital chaplain will meet family members in the lobby and escort them to the family waiting area.

Location (Google map):
202 S Park St, Madison, WI 53715

Highly experienced UW OTD and UPH-M staff will care for the donor at the CRC.

Frequently asked questions

UW OTD staff will honor the family’s requests for information and when and how they wish to receive information. Every case is unique and is handled through sensitive communication between the UW Organ Procurement Coordinator (OPC) and the donor’s family.

After leaving the original hospital, donor families can call UW OTD at (608) 720-6878.

After organ recovery, the donor is transported to the location the family requested. The recovery organization pays for this service.

The complexities of creating the CRC were eased through UW Health’s existing Joint Operating Agreement with UPH-Meriter. Additionally, UPH-Meriter has more readily available operating rooms than University Hospital, which will reduce the timeline and associated stress on donor families.

The transplant surgeries will occur at the hospitals that are serving patients listed for transplant who match the recovered organs based on the national organ allocation system. This could be at UW Health–University Hospital or anywhere in the nation.

More resources for donor families