'In Conversation with' Connie Putnam

Donation – Gifts & Grievances

In this webinar, we spoke to Connie Putnam about the donation process, the difference that a donation makes to the recipient, how funeral homes can honor donors, as well as how they can better work with their local eye and tissue organization.

Connie serves as a Regional Donor Development Manager for Dakota Lions Sight and Health, where she is able to share information about donation opportunities, roles in donation, the organization she works for, and how they contribute to this process by way of hospital in-services, promoting referral opportunities from Law Enforcement, EMS and Medical Examiner/Coroner team education and credit hours.

Transcript

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Well, hello and welcome to our April in conversation with webinar. Thank you so much for joining us for the feedback. My name is Michelle and I'll be your host today with me. I also have Marlena and she's going to be helping us with monitoring the chat and sharing any comments as they come in. Before we get started, just a couple of quick housekeeping items. So first, we really want this to be an interactive session and your participation is highly encouraged and appreciated.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

So please, with any questions, comments, anything like that that you can drop in the chat, go ahead and do that. And Marlena will share those as they come in. Also, if your association grants continuing education credits for this event and you need a certificate, please reach out to me and I'm more than happy to give you one. So with that, I would like to welcome our guest today, my dear friend Connie Putnam with Dakota Lions Sight & Health.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

And Connie has joined me live from the North Dakota Funeral directors convention here in Fargo, where we're both exhibiter. So we're so excited to be together. Such an honor to have Connie here for this event. So if you haven't had a chance to meet my friend Connie yet and just share a little bit about her and then we'll get to chatting. So she began with Dakota Lions Sight & Health back in September 2012 as an on call recovery technician.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

This position has allowed her to have the continued opportunity to recover the gift of sight and health to be shared with those in need. So as a regional donor development manager, she's able to share information about donation opportunities and donation the organization she works for and how they contribute to this process by way of hospital in services, promoting referral opportunities from law enforcement, EMS and medical examiner, corner team education and credit hours. She also consults with Funeral directors in her service area to assist in meeting the needs of the families her organization serves and to maintain positive relationships.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Connie is very honored to be able to work with all types of situations and personalities. Her past experiences have enabled her to feel comfortable presenting and discuss the donation and really carrying out the mission up to Code Alliance site and how she is a donor family and truly shares a deeper sense of what donation means and how donation can impact the lives of countless recipients. Their family is our partners in all our communities. So it's Connie says, let's help each other out as we really are in this together.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

So welcome, Connie.

Connie Putnam

Thank you. Thank you.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Well, it's it's such a pleasure to have you here. And, you know, this is Donate Life Month. And so it's very fitting that we have the opportunity to talk about donation. And maybe, Connie, could you share just a little bit about Donate Life Month and how it got started?

Connie Putnam

Yeah, well, a donation in general started on the organ side of things. We are an eye and tissue donation organization, but because of the opportunities for donation that have come up, because of technology, because of need, different things like that and the fact that people are wanting to give anyway when no longer needing things, donate life America has created a type of donate month where we celebrate one month for to honor those who have donated as well as their families that have wanted to and agreed with them to give gifts.

Connie Putnam

So April is the month for that. And with that, there's many opportunities for our partners, like hospitals where we actually share information. They have a blue and green day where you can wear those colors to celebrate. We have a number of different activities that those facilities can do to during this months it's basically a celebration of life by way of organ, eye and tissue donation.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Well, that's wonderful, and if any of our attendees have a special donation story, they would like to share. We sure love to hear that. Feel free again to type that into the chat. Marlana here would be able to share that with us. So we'd love to hear your stories in honor of this special month. Definitely. We want to hear them. Well, maybe you can perhaps share a little bit about Dakota Lions Sight & Health a little more, how they were started, what their mission life.

Connie Putnam

And certainly so we are one of the lucky ones when it comes to donation. And we have been around now we're going on 30 years. In October, we're going to celebrate with an open house. And that's a good thing. We started as an eye donation and I think and then have progressed into recovering tissues for transplant research and education, too. And so we've been lucky to hang around for 30 years. And we are headquartered in Sioux Falls.

Connie Putnam

We have offices here in Fargo, in Bismarck, and also Rapid City, South Dakota. We are very honored to be accredited and inspected to be very, very well... How can I say this very well recommended or just the fact our reputation for being able to work in ways where we can pass that tissue on, whether it is for transplant or research. So our mission in general is to help enable the restoration of the in health. So like I said before, where an eye and tissue donation organization, if organs are part of our realm in recovery, that would be by way of research and education also.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wonderful and Dakota Lions Sight & Health, they do such wonderful work, and I really recommend checking out their Facebook page. You guys are pretty active on Facebook and you can learn more about them and some of the ways they're serving the community. We have great updates on there. So everyone, please check them out if you have a chance to do that. Well, I guess my next question Connie would be when it comes to donation, who are some of the greatest allies and partners for donor organizations?

Connie Putnam

Well, specifically, I know this is geared towards funeral homes and just any of our different partners, which I'll touch base on. But Funeral Directors, it's really important that we have some kind of partnership with all of you that are in that area. And a lot of that is because you're our last stop no matter what. And so a lot of times we will interrupt your services with donation. And so our partnership and our communication, which I'll get into in here in a little bit, is really imperative to have some kind of positive, even though the situations that we and most of you come upon aren't real positive.

Connie Putnam

And you're dealing with a lot of emotion as well as families and demands and things like that. So we're trying to do what we can to work with you on that that level. Our other partners, obviously, if families and communities where weren't accepting donation, it wouldn't be happening. And the fact that donation in general not only saves lives, but it enhances lives in so many different ways. And being a donor family, I know how when things are passed on to someone else and how much that helps them, that's that's pretty that's pretty important.

Connie Putnam

And it's a gift that isn't a normal gift by any means, but it is forever changing people's lives. So we work with hospitals and hospice, also driver's education classes, where we were talking to those kids that are going to get out on the road and drive and let them know that, hey, you know, this is one thing that is out there that isn't talked about every day, but we do kind of give them donation one on one and ask them to share with their families to make decisions about whether or not they want to be a donor.

Connie Putnam

I also work directly with medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement, EMS teams for those situations where anything outside of a hospital where a death occurs and there's they're needing that extra support. We're needing their support and we're needing to all work together when it comes to donation. So those partnerships are extremely important to and then donation industry partners where just an example, Mayo Clinic, we've actually recovered donor brain from all seven patients, then went to a clinic for research.

Connie Putnam

So those industry partners like Mayo Clinic and we have India for different research types of projects. And that is really important, too, because you never know if on the research end of things, what kind of answers they could find and how many people that could help in the long run. So, yeah.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Oh, well, absolutely. And I know even for Funeral directors who are maybe somewhat seasoned, there still a lot of mystery, if you will, surrounding donation. So maybe you could share a little bit. You know, is a full reconstruction always possible? Can the donor always be you? How much time is there? You know, things like that. You know, just to demystify the donation experience.

Connie Putnam

Yes, definitely we're we're we're not the only I am tissue bank out there. And we don't like I said, on the organ side of things, that's that's not necessarily in our realm. The situation where we stand is is there should absolutely be no problem with any kind of viewing so.

Connie Putnam

That family is wanting, you know, the viewing so they can say goodbye so they can have closure and they're asking you to provide that service to them as funeral directors. It can be a lot of pressure. And so with donation taking place and us interrupting that process, we're doing what we can. And like you said, I'll get into that in just a little bit here, but we're doing what we can to work with you on that part of it so there can be that open casket doing that can help them out with saying good bye.

Connie Putnam

And especially, unfortunately, in these times of Covid, where people don't get to die with family, they're dying alone, and they need that kind of closure. Just to be able to be with their family member or their loved one, their friend, whoever it is, so we're doing what you can to help you make that happen to so.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wonderful. And now my understanding is for eye and tissue, you have 12 hours, how many hours is that you have to for the procurement?

Connie Putnam

Well, hopefully, hopefully as soon as possible. After someone passes, we can get information, get a referral, different things like that. A lot of that has to do with donor designation if they are actually designated on their ID or driver's license. That's that is an open door to the possibility of donation. Timing is always really important because as you know, as Funeral directors. That the longer things wait before you can do any kind of body prep or anything like that, the worse things can be as far as outcomes go, and especially if there is going to be a viewing.

Connie Putnam

So we want hopefully to be able to recover within 12 hours. A lot of it has to do with environment and just different things like that. Hopefully we're getting a call in a timely manner where we can start tackling things like their medical records and finding out what's going on with prior history and what has happened with that donor up until that point, including cause of death. So there's a number of factors there that we have to look at in order to make donation happen and as well as respect the time limits and the things that Funeral directors have on their plate to deal with, too.

Connie Putnam

So part of that has to do with reconstruction and has to do with restoration is just really important that if we are if we are looking at donation for that person, that they are treated with the utmost respect. The care, everything is really important that takes place prior to passing them on for final final restoration with funeral directors.

Marlena Weitzner

A couple questions come through to the first question is how often do people choose to become donors?

Connie Putnam

And that's really tough only because, you know, there's so many different opportunities to check the box, so to speak. And so whether it's when they renew their driver's license or even these kids that are taking driver's ed that are going to actually get that license for the first time, too, there's that question that's on the application for your driver's license, whether you're renewing or brand new. There is websites and that includes our website, too, where you can go on.

Connie Putnam

And if you want to register to be a donor, you can just tell the family your own family. I do want to be a donor. I'm not going to mark it anywhere, anything like that. But the family can pass that on if something does happen. So as far as how many times they choose or whatever, that's hard to say. I can tell you that basically because our two biggest areas of service are in South Dakota and North Dakota, it's pretty even as far as those that are registered to be a donor, whether it is on their ID or their driver's license.

Connie Putnam

And that's about right now, 70 to 70-80 percent somewhere in there that people are actually registered donors. And so we look at that specifically donor designation is really important as far as it is on that I.D. or driver's license, because that's a legal document. And so we want to and we're actually obligated to respect that wish because of that particular situation. We also work with the families on. We have to know that history. We have to know what's going on with that potential donor, too.

Connie Putnam

And things may turn out that they can't be a donor. Not everybody can be always. But there is some things that we need to look at just because for a donation. So hopefully I answered that.

Marlena Weitzner

Yeah, that was a great answer, so the second question was, do donor families ever have the opportunity to meet the recipients?

Connie Putnam

Yes, they do. What's really cool is we have and I think I might see maybe that in the PowerPoint, but we actually have situations where in trying to keep up with HIFA and privacy, things like that, where we can share some information like those that had a loved one die and they donate to save corneas and maybe some tissue or something like that. We are able to tell the families where those corneas go, not specific person where they go, but the area and also with the tissue to different tissues, kind of the areas of where they go.

Connie Putnam

And we give those recipients the option to approach that donor family if they want. And then we are able to bring them together in situations where we have donor events, where we're honoring the donor families and also honoring recipients and just having them meet each other just by way of working things around HIFA and just the the need for the donor family and the recipient to want to connect with each other.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

That's wonderful. That must be a very special moment. Have you ever been there when they get to meet?

Connie Putnam

Yeah. Oh, definitely. We had I might even tear up on this, but we have a situation where we had a donor event. It was actually here in North Dakota where a lady and she was actually one of our speakers and she was a cornea recipient and she had gotten up and spoke on on donations behalf and just really on her gratitude for being able to receive the gift of sight.

Connie Putnam

And so she got up and spoke and said, you know, I'm here today to let you know that I saw the sunrise this morning. I saw the sunset last night. And she said, but more importantly, I'm here because of someone. And then she proceeded to say that I'm here because of Jack and this is Jack's cornea. And I am able to see and I'm able to meet Jack's family and thank them. And it was just so wonderful situation.

Connie Putnam

I know I'm being real brief about it because I don't want to overstep anything. But what a wonderful connection that they were able to make with each other. And Jack lives on. So, yeah.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow, wow, that's such a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing and all. That's wonderful. Well, one thing I would like to throw out there just to those Embalmers, is you know, perhaps, who are in the audience. Of course, we want to best serve families, make sure the donor's family has the best viewing experience possible. And if you have any special tips that you would like to share, we would love to hear them just so we can pass those along. So, again, feel free to drop those on the chat, but that's something we would love to share.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

We always want to help the donor families have the best viewing experience. Then I guess kind of my next question has to do with what are some of the uses for donated tissue donation? Of course, but what do you do with donated tissue?

Connie Putnam

Well, on on this particular screen, what you're seeing here is the tissues that are donated not only for transplant, but at the bottom there I have research tissue. And then over on the side, I have just some options as far as like what happens with the tissue and how it helps.

Connie Putnam

And so things like skin, tendons, ligaments, vascular really help patients that are facing life threatening burns, trauma and diseases of the skin, especially with the skin side of things. And skin has actually become something that is more of a common type of donation than it has been in the past, only because of technology and how it can be processed and shared with other people. So they don't have to compromise any other part of their own body in order to fight whatever it is that they're fighting.

Connie Putnam

So that's probably it. Corneas are actually the most common donation because of many reasons that I'll talk about. And bone is usually the second most common, even though once again, I want to reiterate, it did all start with organ tissue or organ donation for transplant. And just because of how technology has been coming up a little bit more in just their own internal growth of expertize and things like that, that it's really helped other options for donation. So your tendons, your ligaments, your vascular tissues, you know, those athletes with injuries or whatever connective tissues restore mobility to military men and women who have been injured in combat, where functionality with certain, you know, even body parts or whatever is needed because they were in combat.

Connie Putnam

So we're helping that way. Heart valves are something that if you're wondering about age groups or anything like that, we work with just young children as young as two are probably are cut off for youth. A lot of that is because what we do there is a lot of things on that any any younger than two that are advanced enough for any kind of transplant on our realm. But heart valves is huge. And that's something that is very, very helpful to many people with just those kind of problems, cardiovascular disease.

Connie Putnam

So, yeah, and then the research tissue finding palliative measures, answers, cures to any kind of dysfunction and disease that can potentially thousands of people. I mentioned that also brain and well, would be awesome. I don't know that there's a cure any time soon. But as far as helping people out, we've recovered cancerous tissue that they're doing testing on as well. And just other things that if there is any kind of certain studies going on in the world today with whatever we are, we're doing more covers of certain tissues that we do so well.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

And if the the success of tissue donation, what would be the success rate for transplantable tissue and all of that?

Connie Putnam

Well, like your your tendons, your ligaments in your bone bone is very, very successful only because it's I'm going to I'm going to use the word bleach instead of process. But the way it is processed from one from a donor to recipient, those steps that are taken in between bone is very, very accepted in our systems. And so there's actually over a million surgical procedures a year that use bone tissue, and so because the success rate is so needed and they're not having to take once again bone from that same person, that compromise is a certain area. These donors are being very gracious with sharing the bone that they can give in order to help that healing. So bone is very, very successful skin - is it successful? But a lot of it has to do with the grafting and what kind of trauma that person is suffering at the time that's receiving it, too.

Connie Putnam

So there's a lot of medical factors that I don't know about other than I just know there's a lot of factors that affect any kind of recipient situation when they're taking on someone, some other tissue and or prosthetic even. So, just a number of things. But the on the tissue side of things, you know, the success rate usually is fairly high and it's a lot more common than even the organ donation because of looking at those anti-rejection meds and the medical side of it again.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

And is tissue and corneas tested for Covid, for example, or other be.

Connie Putnam

Umm we do do some testing for that. The nice thing about where we're at with donation is those that are passing in hospitals. We're working diligently with those hospital staff, especially if they've done any testing. I mean, there's a reason why that person ended up there in the first place. And so there could have been sometimes there could have been a number of things. And our organization has been extremely lucky enough to out of all the recoveries that we've done in the past year with this pandemic to have only two donors come back positive for Covid.

Connie Putnam

And so we're asking the right questions. We're doing the right testing and we're not passing that tissue on unless we know for sure. And so, yeah, it's just really important that we pay attention to all the aspects that are going on in this world today.

Marlena Weitzner

So we have a question and a comment. The comment is I donated both of my children's placentas and cords when they were born. I believe some stem cells were used as well as the placental tissue for burn victims for graft site healing. Yeah.

Connie Putnam

Wow. Yeah, that is wonderful. We actually are starting a new program for birth tissue. So what's really awesome about the birth tissue side of things is, you know, we don't necessarily have to lose a loved one to be able to pass that tissue on. And so we're we're working on a hard core program right now and we haven't launched anything yet. We're just seeing how hospitals are reacting to what we want to do and their part in it for this partnership and then offering the the good side of why we'd be recovering that tissue in order to really launch those programs. So we would be the only one in the Dakotas to be able to do this. And we're hoping to have that opened up fairly soon.

Marlena Weitzner

Oh, that's great.

Connie Putnam

So thank you to that mom who who donated that tissue of her children

Marlena Weitzner

Absolutely and then question how is the tissue transported specifically, say, skin?

Connie Putnam

We had that question this morning at the conference. Obviously, we have to do something to keep it cool, to slow any kind of decomp down or anything like that. And depending on on who is doing the actual processing that our partner that is doing that, we would have to package it. We have to seal it airtight or it might be put in a type of media for preservation, too. So just it's really up to whoever it is that we're partnering with, it's going to process that that skin to be used for whatever reason. So I don't have any specifics other than that. It's really when we recover it, we're following instructions for whatever it's being used for.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

And I think didn't we have someone ask earlier, what about tattooed skin or so, I mean, would you take a skin that's been tattooed here?

Connie Putnam

We would not. I I usually make kind of a joke about that because tattoos, they're usually personal and it's actually considered kind of a... what would you call it, not real healthy skin if somebody did get a tattoo, but if it says 'I love Bob' on there, we probably don't want to pass it on to somebody who doesn't necessarily love Bob.

Connie Putnam

And I know that's kind of putting some humor into it in such a serious situation. But basically, tattooed skin is considered contaminated. So we're not going to do that or skin that has any kind of like surgical scars or if there is some scarring so possible and maybe some melanomas or like moles or things like that, we're not going to recover that skin either.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

OK, so interesting. Perfect. And so we've had a chance to talk about the tissue donation. So, you know, next we can kind of touch on cornea donation. You know, my question would be what can donated corneas be used for other than the gift of sight and what kind of diseases caused blindness that can be cured with cornea donation?

Connie Putnam
  1. All right. Well, corneas being like the most common donation, a lot of that has to do with the fact that our corneas, there's very little blood flow in the corneas. And when we recover them, we don't have to worry about whether or not somebody that that donor themselves wore glasses or what color of their skin is or what their blood type, anything like that. Corneas are extremely universal. And the transplant rate, as you can see on the screen, is extremely high. And that's that lack of blood flow, that lack of worrying about anything being passed on. The reason why people would need a cornea transplant are a number of diseases like Beukes Dystrophy or Keratoconus, where if you've seen someone that their eyes are, it looks almost like a bulging in the eye.
Connie Putnam

It comes to a point. And sometimes that's thyroid, too. But the Keratoconus is a very painful disease where it will actually destroy the corneas cells. And if they need to be replaced, there's herpes in the eye where you would need a cornea transplant as well. That Beukes Dystrophy, which is a it can be passed down in your family line. Very painful disease to where you're you end up just having blurry sight, eventually going to darkness.

Connie Putnam

It's nothing inside the eye at all. It's the cornea. And so that's what makes that transplant a hopefully successful procedure and a priceless donation because, you know, that person couldn't see prior to that, so it's just really awesome to be able to have two corneas that are recovered, help to people if both eyes are infected, say, with some sort of disease or infection or something like that, corneal transplant is only done on one eye at a time.

Connie Putnam

So somebody who has a double cornea recipient would be a recipient from two actual donors rather than just one. And a lot of that is your healing time, which is fairly quick. But they don't want to do two surgeries at once.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

So I see. So since there's not a whole lot of blood flow to the eye, if someone had cancer, I mean, that wouldn't disqualify them from being a donor or is that correct?

Connie Putnam

That is correct.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

OK.

Connie Putnam

A person say, you know, a female who had breast cancer and even metastasized age group aging and that type of thing might be a factor. But other than that, no, there's no reason why she couldn't be a cornea donor.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wow so almost anyone could be a cornea donor, is that correct?

Connie Putnam

Corneas are like I said, they're they're amazing. There's more cornea donation than any other, you know.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

That's wonderful. And, you know, how can Funeral Home best work with their donor organization? You know, you're there to serve them, of course. But what can they do to help serve you as well and make your job easier?

Connie Putnam

So some of the things that they wanted to talk about just a little more specifically communication is definitely the key. And I know that with all of us everywhere in every aspect of our lives and part of our process and the Dakota Lions Sight & Health that we. Are are proud of it as far as a donation goes, as we are doing our best to touch base with Funeral directors when donation is going to happen.

Connie Putnam

There's there's always some different areas prior to a referral coming to us that we might have to wait on or that we aren't even aware of or whatever. So timeliness obviously is part of that communication. And with what you are going to have to do after donation takes place, or even if there's been a lot of time where there isn't necessarily been a referral yet or there is a referral and we're trying to research whether or not this person can even be a donor, we're doing what we can with just, you know, trying to work that out as fast as possible so we can let you know.

Connie Putnam

And I think probably the best thing that we could ask of you when it comes to communication is if a lot of times you'll end up at a hospital to do a removal and nobody said anything about donation. You got a phone call, come and you know, please take this person into your care and you get there and there's this big waiting thing. And how frustrating is that when it's like 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning? And so what I would ask, when you get that call, whether it's from a hospital staff or even the family, because we might not have talked to the family yet either about that person, whether they're a designated donor, whether they talk to their family about donation, whatever, they've made a choice for you to serve them.

Connie Putnam

But they haven't necessarily talked about donation yet. And so I would say to you to communicate with the hospital or even call us and say, hey, listen, you know, we're to the understanding that, you know, there's a there's a potential donor or there's someone at the hospital before I even leave my office. Is that going to happen or would you let me know? So save yourself a trip, save yourself a hassle. You know, a middle middle of the night stuff and.

Connie Putnam

Ask that question, too, especially if you haven't heard from us or any other agency that you might be working with, so it's just really important. So that referral source is is huge to you just to find out? And then along with the communication, I guess I'll just keep going.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Oh, yes, it's wonderful. I've learned so much. Thank you Connie.

Connie Putnam

Yeah, yeah. No problem. But I mean, that ruling out all of that that we're trying to do, we're trying to move forward with donation is going to take time. So if you have questions on, hey, where are you guys out with this or whatever, you're welcome to call me directly and I will do what I can to find answers. But we have an 800 number, too, that you can call where you're going to be talking to our coordinator, who actually is the one who's trying to set up all of the factors with donation or not or even getting to you.

Connie Putnam

So we want to be as open and transparent as possible with communicating with you. So it's really important that, you know, we have those lines that that we can go back and forth with stuff and we're here to help out where we can. Also, when it comes to donation, we actually will work with you where there's a concern about the actual viewing for the family. And when it comes to skin donation or when it comes to certain other say we're recovering maybe spinal spinal column and spinal fluid for research.

Connie Putnam

I mean, if things like that are are a factor with what you're trying to provide for the family and present to the family, please let us know that because donation can take place. And it isn't about, you know, doing any kind of recovery with as many body parts as possible. We're here to respect that donor, that family and the work that you need to do to. So I can tell you that those funerals where we recovered corneas and see, you know, full, full, long bone, whether it's both arm and leg or just leg or whatever, that's not going to interfere with the viewing.

Connie Putnam

So we're doing what we can in our due diligence to help you make that presentation to I. I can't imagine the pressure that you feel sometimes. I know I feel pressure. I'm not even doing recoveries anymore. And when I know what we're recovering and there might be a viewing, it's like, OK, come on, we want to get this right, too. So please share with us your concerns and also what you're grateful for, too. But I mean, we want to hear from you what what would be helpful to you.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

So now let's say someone outside of your service area, we might have people on here that are outside of the Dakotas. How and let's say they don't have a good working relationship with their organization. They don't even know who their organization is. How could they get information, find their organization, any suggestion?

Connie Putnam

Right. A lot of that will have to do with it, especially if that person passes in the hospital. Donation organizations have and it's contracts. I'm just going to put it out there with the hospitals.

Connie Putnam

And so the hospital is going to be able to tell you who their donation partners are and who they're serving as well. So especially if you're in that area or the same state usually as that hospital, then that would be your answer. There is some states that have more than one entity with their partner. So find that out, too. And the best thing to do is give them a call and say, hey, listen, I don't know if you would be the one representing donation in this particular case, but ask questions.

Connie Putnam

It can't hurt. There is absolutely no stupid questions like especially if there is a possibility of donation. You need to know, because, like I said, they're your final stop and you have a job to do and a family to serve as well. So, yeah, open that communication. Open, open, open, open.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely. And do we have anything coming through in that chat, perhaps, Marlena?

Marlena Weitzner

I just didn't want to cut anybody out now says I am uncertain how the process works in the USA and England. Many people will take out a pre-payment plan when they plan the funeral. But the funeral director contributing towards a policy that will cover the cost of the funeral before they die. If the system is the same in the US, is that the best time to discuss donation and obtain a possible commitment to donation well ahead of time? Or are there ethical or practical considerations that may impact an early decision?

Connie Putnam

OK, great question. Hopefully things that none of us think about on a daily basis, and especially when we're young and think we're going to live forever. We're not necessarily making end of life decisions as funeral directors. I would say make it part of your your program, make it part of what you're doing to serve your family, your community or whatever, because that may come off at some point. Do we know that we're going to be able to be a donor when our life is completely over, those that sign up for donation also and those that don't it really probably doesn't matter. But I will tell you that there's certain decisions that we make in life that will negate that factor, too.

Connie Putnam

So and just a quick example. I know that in our area, anyone who dies in a prison situation or in jail, it cannot be a donor. And there's a number of reasons for that. But they may have been a designated donor and it's it's not going to happen. It's just not going to happen.

Connie Putnam

So I'm thinking ahead, when it comes to what you're offering families or whatever, number one, there should be absolutely no cost to those families on on our part. There shouldn't be any cost to those families for any kind of donation taking place. We're here to help the funeral homes with that. If there's extra time, even sometimes supplies, whatever it is that's needed on those people that come in from us where donation is taken place. And so what we're doing is, is asking questions like, you know, what do you need from us as far as any kind of closure?

Connie Putnam

And a lot of that might be stitching or are you needing prosthetics? Are you needing different things like that? And so because of those extra things, that may be something that is taken into consideration with conversations with your donation agencies as well as what's going on with your families. So donation might happen when that person dies or it might not. But I would ask you to hopefully be open to that possibility when you are writing up plans with families. So hopefully that makes sense and hopefully I got that answered, if not, you can text me.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

You know, it was an excellent question, though. Thank you so much for asking. Do we have any other ones before we almost come to a conclusion, Marlena?

Marlena Weitzner

That was the last question. I mean, we did have a comment. Thank you for all you do for organizations such as yourself and have a lot of respect for what you do. Thank you for providing such a necessary service.

Connie Putnam

Oh, thank you so much. Well, I tell you what, when it comes to funerals and and trying to serve families and the pressure that Funeral directors are under, I like I said, I can't imagine. So I will echo and return that sentiment because end of life situations and all of the things that surround end of life. And when we lose someone that we love and there's none of us that are going to get out of this life without losing someone, the job and the services that you provide are so extremely important.

Connie Putnam

So thank you. Thank you for what you do as well. Let's work this out together and communicate with your donation agencies, find out what they're what they're doing and ask them to help you and they will ask you to help them as well. So let's work it out.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Definitely. Well, I guess my final thought would be how many people can benefit from one donor? How many recipients can benefit from one donor?

Connie Putnam

Right. Well, on the screen, as you see potential to help over 400 people, it just depends on what actually is recovered and the possibilities having to do with what's needed for different tissues, what's needed on the organ side of things, because this includes organs as well.

Connie Putnam

And it's pretty amazing how we can be very helpful to people if we are designated donors and can donate depending on choices in our lives. And so it's it's awesome that we can give back or pay it forward, as I kind of put it, if that's a possibility. And if there is accepting organizations out there like the Funeral directors and donation organizations that can help make that happen.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Wonderful. And if you would like to get in touch with Connie, we do have her information here. She's always happy to hear from you. I do know that I've had people ask I was a funeral director prior to working for OpusXenta, but they're like, you know, what can our funeral home do to honor donor families? So I'd like to ask you that. But I'd also like those in attendance to perhaps drop some ideas in the chat. If there's anything you would like to share about how your funeral home honors donor families. We would love to hear it, but Connie would have some suggestions you have.

Connie Putnam

So since you are serving that family and they made the choice or that deceased made that choice to be a donor and donation takes place. If you are part of writing obituaries and things like that, there may be something that can be added to the obituary to help honor that family since you are putting together the service for them. We have a wonderful funeral homes both in South Dakota and North Dakota that actually raise the Donate Life flag, which I actually have some of those, too so that's something that any of you would want. And you're willing to request that from me. And I will get you a Donate Life flag to fly during a service for that Donate Life Month. We touch base with our Funeral directors on that, too, and let them know that, hey, that's what's going on this month. We will provide different little packages for the service itself, having to do with like donate life bracelets, pins, just information on donation.

Connie Putnam

And it's really up to the family in the funeral home to put that out there or not. There's many, many funerals that take place where nobody actually knows that person is a donor other than the funeral home as well as the family. And nobody really talks about it. So it's it's really a personal thing. It's up to you and the family to decide whether or not that's something you want to bring about to the public. But it is a quite an honor for that person who was a donor. And it's very respectful for the family to. And thank you for respecting donation by recognizing it, if that's what you want to do.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Well, I see one little comment on the chat about how  it looks like their donor organization gives out little like beads and the families call them love stone. Their like heart shaped beads it looks like and can stay with the person during cremation or burial. It can be given to the family. A little bit of both is just a way to honor the gift. I think I'm seeing that they give one stone per gift.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Oh, I know. I know. What a wonderful way. And the family kind of gives them that little keepsake connection.

Connie Putnam

Yeah, that's a great idea. I know that little trinkets or whatever, you can go on different sites and just find little things that honor donation, that if families are interested or whatever, that might be something that as funeral directors you share with the families you serve as part of your service. Hey, we have this because, you know, your loved one was a donor. Is this something that you want to consider giving out or is part of the service?

Connie Putnam

So that's wonderful. We should celebrate the lives of the people that we lost. And I think it's really important that we don't forget them.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely. Well, are there any final questions or comments? I know we've gone a bit over on time, but this has just been such a wonderful time together. Anything coming through, Marlena, that we should address?

Marlena Weitzner

I think that's it.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

OK, well, I would just like to thank everyone for being here. Connie, do you have any final closing thoughts you would like to offer?

Connie Putnam

Just like I said before, thank you for your service to the families, the communities. Thank you for working with those donation agencies and the industries themselves. Appreciate what you do so much. Thank you. Thank you. All right. Well, with that, we hope you will join us next month for our in conversation with.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

But again, I'd like to give such a special thank you to Connie for giving us her time today and a special thank you to everyone who joined us. So thank you. And we will see you next month.

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