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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Tissue donation brings healing to dozens of patients

A family talks about integrity in the donation process.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Losing a loved one is never easy. The advance of science now allows more families to choose to leave a legacy through end-of-life donation.

One of the growing areas is tissue donation.

Whether it's for implants or research, how can you be sure your loved one's gift is in the right hands?

It all starts with how the tissue will be used.

If it's for surgery or other medical applications, a certified recovery team with a tissue bank can offer guidance.

If the donation is for science to help find potential cures for disease, the process could include connections you know nothing about.

At the Indiana Donor Network, the focus is on extending the lives of others through tissue donation.

Tissue includes bones, skin, heart valves, tendons and even corneas for eyesight.

One tissue donor can help up to 75 people.That's what happened with 46-year old Kimberly Lewis.

In 2014, she suffered an aneurysm and couldn't be resuscitated. She and her husband, William, had both signed up to be donors years earlier.

Still William was heartbroken and questioned whether he should allow her to go through the tissue recovery process.

His decision weighed heavily on the Donor Network's pledge to honor his wife with professional care.

"When it's your loved one you're always wondering 'my goodness what's happening there,'" he said. "I wondered, will they take care of her and love her the way that I loved her?"

William took comfort in the fact that the Donor Network has to operate under federal Tissue Bank guidelines under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Tissue recoveries can take place either at a hospital or the Donor Network's own facilities.

The best way to help your family prepare for a donation is by making your request known to family members and signing up either at the BMV or registering directly at IndianaDonorNetwork.org

Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can register to be a donor (children under the age of 18 will have to have parental consent).

"I wondered, will they take care of her and love her the way that I loved her?"

The Indiana Donor Network assumes clinical care of the patients in preparation for organ and tissue recovery and assumes all costs with the process.

Tissue Recovery for Research, on the other hand, can be much different.

Recoveries can be made in the morgue of a funeral home or a private lab and don't normally include grief support services for families.

These recoveries are made by individuals or companies contracted to collect specimen based on requests from researchers.

Sometimes they're contracted by families for private examination (such as an autopsy) to determine cause of death. In these cases, families must pay the the cost of the services.

Unfortunately many of the companies doing this kind of tissue recovery can lack oversight.

It's resulted in questionable donations taken by a man who claims to have credentials but really doesn't.