How Donation Works

The process of saving and healing lives is a team effort between Nebraska Organ Recovery, hospitals throughout the state and several other partner organizations who work diligently to care for the donor and his/her family, while protecting the safety of the recipients and maximizing the gift of life.

The following steps outline how donation takes place. Each donation opportunity is different, but in general, the organ donation process can take several days. Tissue donation is completed in about 24 hours after the individual’s death. 

Identifying Potential Donors

Hospitals and other referring organizations notify Nebraska Organ Recovery when an individual has died or their family has decided to end life-sustaining care. In order for organ donation to take place, the potential donor must be in a hospital and supported by mechanical ventilation. Tissue donation is still an option for individuals who do not meet the organ donation criteria.

Donation Authorization

If the individual is a good candidate for donation, we check the Donor Registry to determine if he or she is registered. If not registered, family support coordinators will discuss the option for donation with his or her legal decision maker to determine if they would like donation to take place. Following authorization, an organ donor remains in their hospital room and continues to be supported by mechanical ventilation until the time of recovery.

Medical Evaluation

Each donor is thoroughly screened to determine what organs and tissues can safely and effectively be donated. We review the donor’s current health and past medical history, and talk with his or her family members to identify any conditions or lifestyle choices that could adversely affect future recipients.

Finding Recipients for Organ Donation

Once we’ve determined what organs can be donated, recipients are identified through the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). A sophisticated system is used to determine the best match based on factors like blood type, size, medical urgency and distance from the donor.

Recovery Surgery

The donation surgery takes place in an operating room, with great care given to respect the donor’s body and maintain the viability and safety of the organs and tissues being recovered. A moment of silence is observed prior to the surgery to honor the donor and the generosity of his/her gift of life.


After the donation surgery, organs are transported to the recipient’s transplant center and transplant takes place immediately. Donated tissues are sent to tissue processors for preparation, storage and to find recipients. Donated tissues may be stored for up to five years before being transplanted.

Caring for the Donor's Family

During the organ donation process, our family support coordinators remain with the donor’s family to answer questions, assist with funeral planning, create keepsakes of the donor and provide support in any way needed. Interested families may participate in our Aftercare program which provides grief support and honors the donor in the 13 months following donation.