Jeremy and Joy Weyandt have a letter they want to write, but they're having trouble putting their thoughts into words.
They know they want to thank the family who decided to donate their loved one's lungs so that Jeremy might live. They're just having difficulty finding the right words, Joy said. They're not even sure the family wants to hear from them.
The Weyandts just know they have to try to express the deep gratitude they feel for the gift of life they've been given when they know at the same time another family lost a life.
"We're so thankful; it was truly a miracle,'' Joy said. "We want to contact the other family, if they're accepting letters.''
The organ donation was arranged through CORE, the Center for Organ Recovery & Education. The Weyandts only know that the donor for Jeremy's lungs was a 38-year-old man. They would like to let the family who donated the lungs to know that the donation saved Jeremy's life and that their choice means he's continuing to live a healthy life that they celebrate daily, the Weyandts said.
CORE will not release the donor family's name or any other personal information to the organ recipient's family, but it will relay letters between the families if they both wish, the Weyandts said. When the Weyandts celebrated the one-year anniversary of Jeremy's double lung transplant surgery in September, they gathered with 100 of their friends and family to release balloons at a big party marking the anniversary.
On the balloons, the family had written a special message to the donor and the donor's family.
"Thank you to Jeremy's donor and family for the gift of life!'' the Weyandts wrote on each balloon.
Dr. Joseph Pilewski, medical director of the UPMC Pittsburgh lung transplant program, said he has worked in medicine for more than 20 years. He said he is familiar with the concerns some people have that doctors might rush to declare critically ill patients brain dead so that they can harvest their organs.
However, he said that cannot happen because the doctors who care for patients when they are alive are not the doctors who harvest organs for organ donations.
"It's just not done,'' he said. "I've never heard of anything that even came close to anything happening like that. You can't create a situation like that where something like that would occur.''
For more information about CORE, go to www.core.org.