Memory boxes have become a comfort to bereaved families of organ donors in hospitals across the West and North West
To coincide with Organ Donation Awareness Week (20-27 May) the Saolta University Health Care Group has officially launched the ‘Thinking of You Memory Boxes for Organ Donors’ an award-winning Hospice Friendly Hospitals initiative.
The ‘Thinking of You Memory Boxes’ is a new initiative within the Saolta Group (which covers hospitals from Galway to Donegal) dedicated to organ donors and their families. Memory boxes can be a significant part of the journey of donor families who have lost a loved one. The initiative aims to support patients in their final days of life and their families into bereavement and beyond.
The tree of life is the symbol stamped on the box representing the continuation of life that a deceased individual has given to another. Each memory box contains; a lavender bouquet, a small candle, a ‘thinking of you’ memory cloud which is placed in the donor’s hand during their final hours, a hanging emblem in memory of the donor with the inscription ‘when it rains, look for the rainbows’, and inkless handprints created at the bedside to provide comfort during a sensitive time.
The memory box also includes a small teddy, a keepsake box for hair locks, a purple jewellery pouch previous winner of the Hospice Friendly Hospital originating at Portiuncula University Hospital, and wildflower seeded heart poems that once planted will grow symbolising the continuation of life and the kind reminder of a donor’s gift.
Gillian Shanahan, Organ Donation Nurse Manager, Saolta University Health Care Group and project lead on the ‘Thinking of You Memory Boxes for Organ Donors’ said: “The provision of memory-making in the final hours of a donor’s life is the last gift that we as healthcare professionals can give to an organ donor family. Keepsakes can provide comfort in grief in the weeks and months ahead.
“The opportunity to develop the boxes arose in 2022 when the Hospice Friendly Hospitals Quality Improvement initiative was advertised. This annual award seeks to support projects to improve end-of-life care. I collaborated with other specialists within our hospitals, such as End of Life Co-ordinators, Bereavement Liaison Officers, and Critical Care Nurses in the intensive care units, and together we researched and sourced appropriate items."
The end result is a high-quality memory box made with Irish-sourced keepsakes. "We can now offer donor families the option of a memory box to help them preserve memories," Gillian added.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who supported this project and thank all those who attended the official launch including David Burke, Galway Senior Hurler. The memory box is a symbol of our respect, compassion, and empathy for the organ Donor and Organ Donor Family. It is the hope that this memory box for organ donors will provide the families that are left behind with comforting memories.”
Ali Tomas, Critical Care Nurse, Mayo University Hospital said, “It is a beautiful memory box that will be of comfort to many families during their grief. The donor has done so much for others, it is lovely to provide a meaningful gift to the family that is focused on the patient.”
Paul Hooton, Saolta Group Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery said, “Gillian Shanahan, our Organ Donation Nurse Manager, supports families throughout the Organ Donation pathway, and part of that support includes offering mementos. Congratulations to everyone involved in creating this beautiful memory box to support families through an emotional and difficult time.”
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