The Gift that Heals; Stories of Hope, Renewal and Transformation Through Organ and Tissue Donation. Reg Green. UNOS and Reg Green Foundations.



This book is a compendium of 42 stories which vividly illustrate the many facets of the human relationships involved in organ and tissue transplantation. They cover tragic losses, great individual and family altruism, professional dedication and care – all combining to generate renewal of hope by prolongation of life.

This book consists of 42 stories (though unnumbered in the text) that cover the many vivid experiences of all those involved in the process of organ and tissue donation: donor families, transplant coordinators, actual donors, transplant physicians and, of course, organ and tissue recipients and their families. To professionals in this field, most of the experiences are familiar but, in the view of this reviewer, have never been put together to make such a work of human endeavor within the context of individual, family and professional relationships. That is where this book reveals it underlying inspiration. As one story puts it, it is all about ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things!’ (story 38).

In addition to the wonderful family story (story 42) of the person who put together this compendium, Reg Green, there are stories of a transplant surgeon who needed a cornea (story 9), lung recipients who then ran a marathon (story 8), or scaled a sky-scraper in Chicago (story 19), or a 5000 foot mountain (story 33) in Yosemite National Park; a family who collectively gave five kidneys, including three donated altruistically to anonymous recipients (story 29). The stories by transplant coordinators of their experiences are sensitive and compelling (stories 6, 12, 20, 32).

Though most of the donors in these stories donated after death by neurological criteria (after the diagnosis of ‘brain death’), or are live donors, there is an example of donation after cardiac death (DCD) where organ-perfusion support systems were withdrawn for reasons other than so-called ‘brain death’ criteria (story 7). This dates from 1995. Since then DCD has become more widely practiced in the USA whereas, in Canada, it has only recently been seen as a potent source for organ and tissue donation.

Other themes that are illustrated in these relationships include: the value to bereaved families of later contact with donor families (story 8); the absence of ethnic, skin-color, religious and even international barriers to organ sharing (stories 18, 21, 27); and, for those countries which do not have a nation-wide organ sharing system, the value of broad scope of UNOS in the USA (many instances).

Overall this book brings these many aspects of transplantation into a readable and absorbing fusion of many people's experiences. It is a book that should be widely available as a reference source in transplantation circles and read by health professionals, including medical and nursing students, by families of donors or by recipients and by all those who may be peripherally involved—such as hospital pastoral care personnel, ethics committee members and the like. This is made easier by its modest price. The book can be ordered online at httrp:// or at major online booksellers.