Noreen Sutton’s role at LifeNet Health in Renton suits her and her experience caring for people in their darkest days.
Meet Noreen Sutton, a donor family advocate at LifeNet Health in Renton.
What do you do? I am a donor family advocate at LifeNet Health, the only full-service tissue bank in the Pacific Northwest. I support the families and loved ones of tissue donors throughout Washington, Idaho and Montana, which includes providing a safe space for families to share stories about their loved ones; coordinating memorial events throughout the year; and facilitating our Thanks2You program that invites tissue recipients to write letters to donor families, expressing their gratitude and appreciation.
How did you get that job? I have a medical background. I worked in a surgical unit in Texas as a certified nursing aide for four years. During that time, I also volunteered at a crisis center where I would respond to and be alongside rape survivors in the hospital.
I came across the donor family advocate position in 2015 and thought that it suited me and my experience caring for and supporting people.
What’s a typical day like? Our donor family services team truly supports the needs of the community. Most days, I am communicating with donor families and tissue donation recipients, getting to know them on a personal level.
I review and send out the Thanks2You letters from people who have received tissue transplants to the families of the donors who provided that gift. I mail families sympathy cards and work closely with other LifeNet Health staff who educate the community about the tissue donation process, including the importance of sharing your wishes with your family.
What’s the best part of the job? Building connections with donor families, tissue recipients and our LifeNet Health staff. I’m blessed to be given the opportunity to listen to and support families as they share their stories, even in their darkest days of grief.
What surprises people about what you do? I’m often told, “That must be so hard, counseling grieving families.” However, I’m not a counselor, and instead consider myself a grief companion. Just like any job, there are challenges but also many rewards. For example, most people don’t know that one tissue donor can help up to 150 lives.
My job is about connecting with people, and being a good, active listener makes all the difference.