Kelley Romanowski: A personal connection to organ & tissue donation

Kelley Romanowski knew she wanted to work in a helping profession. She started on the path toward nursing but realized that wasn't for her, and became a licensed funeral director and embalmer at a family owned and operated funeral home instead.

Kelley Romanowski, LifeSourceWhile working in funeral service, she had a pair of life events that started preparing her for a different line of work in organ and tissue donation. First, her husband, before they got married, had a snowmobile accident and needed a donor ACL. Then her mother needed - and received - the gift of bone tissue on two separate occasions.

"She went and had the procedure...and within a month, we saw her having some relief. Within two months, she was able to move on her own again," Kelley recalls. "To see that kind of a change and know that that impact of the gift that someone gave to my mom, and that I won't ever know who that person was-- I can never repay that, and I am so grateful that she lived her final years pain-free."

After experiencing first-hand how the gift of donation can impact someone's life, she decided to leave funeral service and started worked with LifeSource, the Donate Life affiliate serving the Upper Midwest of the United States in all aspects of organ, eye and tissue donation. Her unique perspective from her time in the funeral profession made her a perfect fit for their funeral home, medical examiner, coroner and hospice support team.

While most conversations surrounding donation should be handled by a Certified Designated Requestor, LifeSource does offer brochures for funeral directors to share with families during preneed consultations.

"It is a delicate conversation, just like it's a delicate conversation when a funeral director describes an embalming procedure to a family. You start off with very little information and we leave that conversation to the experts," Kelley says. "If a family does have questions regarding what happens during the donation process, have them call their local tissue recovery agency and have that team explain the process to them. Then, just as we would ask the family to call us, we will definitely refer them back to the funeral home if they have any questions regarding the funeral services or the embalming process and care of their loved one as well."

At the end of the day, Kelley says it's most important to support the family's decision - whatever it is - and reaffirm their choice, then speak positively about it with them.

A new program is starting through Donate Life America called Donation Champion Funeral Home that provides more in-depth education to funeral directors on preparation aspects, how to speak positively about donation, components you can add into obituary notices, ways to honor the donor during their visitation like a Donate Life flag raising ceremony, placing a Donate Life magnet on the hearse or lead car or handing out Donate Life bracelets.

Kelley spoke with Geri Oliverie as part of Season 2 of OGR’s Digital Dialogue Series podcast. Use the player below to listen to the full episode to hear Kelley's other insights on how best to discuss donation with your families and work donation into a donor's service(s). If you don't see the player, click here. then be sure to check out all our past episodes.

Season 2 of the Digital Dialogue Series is sponsored by The Dodge Companythe world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of preparation room supplies, and an OGR Endorsed Supplier.

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