To My Donor Family

It is national donate life month.  Seven months ago, I had a heart transplant.  On April 13, 2008 I sent this letter along with one from my wife, Robin.   I hope sharing this letter will not only increase organ donation but will offer some comfort to other donor families.   

Dear Donor Family:

On August 21, 2007 I received a heart from your loved one.  You, he and it saved my life.  I promise I will take care of this gift far better than I took care of my own natural organ.  Each day before I get up I take a moment to feel this marvelous gift steadily thumping in my chest.  It is alive and healthy and has created in me a new appreciation for life.

More than that, though, I am always aware that this heart is not mine.  It belongs to the kind of person all of us should aspire to be.  Moreover, he came from the kind of people all of us should aspire to be.  Maybe it is my imagination but since receiving my new heart, I feel a serenity I have never before felt.  I feel a concern for others far greater than I thought possible. I feel a responsibility to all organ donors and their families to do what I can to honor their loved ones by committing the rest of my life to promoting organ donation.

I was very sick prior to my transplant.  I could no longer get around very well because my heart just could not pump efficiently enough.  I knew I was dying and as a 68 year-old man with COPD and B positive blood, I did not think a transplant was in the cards.  But it was.  As a result, I believe that God saved me for a reason and that reason was to promote organ donation to honor you and your loved one.

I appreciate the simple things now, much more than before.  I look forward every morning to seeing my loving wife and caregiver, Robin.  Staying in contact with family and friends has become more important than ever before.  I enjoy sitting in our sunroom watching the sunrise and sunset.  Each day gives me a new thrill because each day is a gift from you and from God.

I don’t know if we will ever meet and although I am likely to be at a loss for words, I would like to thank you personally.  You gave me life, you gave me peace and you gave me a profound sense of gratitude and understanding.  I am a new person and I hope that in your grief it helps to know that a part of your loved one is alive and that with his help I am trying to live my life in a way that would make you proud.

God bless

Bob Aronson


About Bob Aronson

Bob Aronson is a former journalist, a Minnesota Governor's Press Secretary and talk show host. For nearly a quarter of a century, he led the Aronson Partnership, a Minnesota-based communications consultancy that prepared corporate and government executives for crisis situations, regulatory testimony, media interviews and Presentations. Among his clients were all three U.S. Mayo Clinic locations, 3M, general Mills, CH2M Hill, the U.S. Department of Energy and scores more. In 2007 bob had a heart transplant after suffering from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy for 12 years. Shortly after he got his new heart he founded the now 4,300 member Facebook support group, Organ Transplant Initiative. At the same time, he established the Bob's Newheart blog where he has posted nearly 300 columns on organ donation, transplantation and other health related issues. The Viewpoint blog was started in late 2016 and bears the name of the Radio Talk show Bob did from 1966 until 1974, when he resigned to become Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich first Press secretary. Bob and his artist wife Robin, live in Jacksonville, Florida with their two dogs, Reilly and Ziggy. Bob is also a woodworker and makes all of the furnishings for Robin's art festival booth. He also makes one of a kind jewelry or "memories" boxes that he donates to select transplant patients, caregivers, donor families and others who have somehow contributed to making life easier for the ill, the elderly and the less fortunate. Bob is in the final stages of editing two full-length novels that will be available on Kindle when ready for release sometime in early 2017. One is a sci fi novel about an amazing discovery near Roswell, New Mexico and you will be surprised to find it has nothing to do with the Roswell story everyone knows. It features a woman scientist who investigates impact craters for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Dr. Rita Sylvester and her female student intern. The other book is a political thriller that introduces a new hero to the genre, Fargo Dennison.

Posted on April 8, 2008, in To My Donor Family. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. As a mom of an organ donor, I just want to say “Thank you”. As recipients, you feel the need to thank us, but I see the other side of that. Thank you for taking care of my sons organs, thank you for respecting his life enough to show your gratitude in everything that you do. I knew my son wanted to be an organ donor if anything ever happened to him, as he told me so after watching the movie “John Q”. I am so thankful we had that conversation and I was able to honor his wishes. It truly helps in my grieving process. Again, I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.


  2. This is beautiful, Bob…it gave me goosebumps. Thanks for sharing, and for all your work to promote organ donation.


  3. On an earier comment I noted that Savilla Marie was from Tunisia. She is from Canada. I apologize for the error.


  4. Borni Adel of Tunisia wrote:

    I would like to chear my 10 anniversery of my kidney transplant with every body who is transplanted or waiting for the good news and I pray GOD that it will be soon to everyone.Thank you.


  5. Bob:

    What a lovely letter. I would expect that the family of your donor would be very touched receiving it.

    Dave Undis


  6. A reader, Sarah Ryan (address unknown) sent this comment:
    Re: A letter to my donor family

    Hi, Bob,

    I am a wife of an almost 12-yr heart transplant recipient. I joined your facebook group a while back, and I’ve kept up with your blogs. I am very impressed at your devotion to spreading the word about organ donation. You are well spoken and have many good things to say. I, too, obviously believe that all people should become organ donors.

    My husband, Jay, was given the precious gift of life on August 2, 1996 when he was 19 years old. He had caught a rare virus that attacked his heart in less than three months. He was on life support (in a coma) for about 3 weeks waiting for a transplant. At the time it seemed like an eternity, but we now know that he had a fairly short wait. Jay has been incredibly blessed over the last 12 years. He has been classified “as one of the healthiest heart transplant recipients Mayo Clinic (Rochester) has seen.” He’s had a few bumps in the road over the years, but in all, he can do everything he did before his transplant. He was a very active, avid athlete prior to his illness.

    We were blessed with a baby boy just over a year ago and every day we are thankful as ever to his donor and donor family for the gift they gave him. He wrote a letter similar to the one you wrote to your donor family many years ago. Unfortunately, he never heard any response, but the greatest response of all was their willingness to donate their loved one’s heart.

    Again, your devotion to spreading the word of organ donation is important and admirable.

    Thank you, Sarah


  7. Savilla Marie of Tunisia sent this comment

    I am an end stage renal patient on dialysis with 5% kidney function, and I have given this a lot of thought. I’m on the waiting list for a cadaveric donor, but it is 8 years long where I live. I was put on the list in December, so I have a long wait. I would be thrilled if I could get a transplant sooner. If someone gave up one of their kidneys to save my life, simply saying “thank you” is not enough. I know it is illegal to buy a kidney in this country, but I would. My sister did the testing to see if she would be a match, and I told her if she did go through with it, I would buy her a vacation package and we would both go together. She is not a candidate to be a donor.

    Because of the organ shortage, I believe there should be presumed consent. I am also hoping for advancements in stem cell research.


  8. Susan Mau Larson


    This is a lovely and moving tribute to your donor and his family. With your permission we will share this with other donor families. They are not all blessed to here such compassionate words of gratitude for the recipients of their loved ones organs, but through your words I believe more families will receive some comfort and strength in knowing what a difference the miraculous gifts of donation can make.

    Thank you for posting this.

    Susan Mau Larson
    Director, Public Affairs


  1. Pingback: caregiver appreciation

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