What does it mean to be a member of a donor family? Jamie Yetter, the family services coordinator with the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA), works closely with families who potentially have a loved one who is a viable organ donor. She’s a chaplain and gets notified from hospitals when a potential donor becomes available, then serves as a liaison between the medical team and potential donor family. Even if a family chooses not to donate, Yetter stays by their side and helps in any way she can. Organ donation is just part of her role—the bulk of her work is helping families through end of life care decisions, aftercare, and providing a solid support system for them.
Yetter’s sister was a tissue donor, although Yetter was already in the organ donation field at the time. Her sister was a nurse and also worked part-time in a call center serving those who were organ donors and their families. Working in the field of death and bereavement, Yetter has gone on that journey with many families. Still, Yetter says she’s surprised by her own journey. Her own grief and sorrow for her sister remains strong, and she says she’s felt her “self” fracture at times.
“The Lisa we knew and loved who had a heart that was huge and generous has now gone out into the community and helped—so far—15 people,” she says. There’s a specific way of going about talking about organ donation. Yetter explains that families need to go through an organization like ARORA or a transplant center for the process. There are many “reunions,” where families meet those who received a donation, bringing the process full circle.
Organ donation, if possible, should be discussed well before an accident or illness.