Our People in Profile: Family support liaison joins Legacy of Life program to “expand compassionate care for our donor families”

Heather Hemming is the first family support liaison for Nova Scotia Health’s Legacy of Life program. (contributed)

In February, of last year Heather Hemming joined Nova Scotia Health’s Legacy of Life program as the first family support liaison. In this role she supports families of organ donors.  

“This is a vital new position in the Legacy of Life Program,” said Hemming. “It provides a rewarding, unique opportunity to work directly with families, as part of a small dedicated team and to help expand compassionate care for our donor families.”

Hemming, a social worker, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from her previous community work and having served as a medication resource specialist in the Cancer Care program. 

When she learned of this opportunity with Legacy of Life, she knew her skills and abilities would be a perfect fit for the family support liaison position.   

“In organ donation, every family’s experience is unique and there can be many complex emotions. I can be a resource to families and also assist them with finding resources in their community to help them along their way towards healing,” said Hemming. 

Within the new Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act (HOTDA) legislation, Hemming indicated it may be possible for some donor families, live donors and recipients to have direct contact with each other, if they wish and when certain criteria are met. 

She will help facilitate these interactions. 

 “This direct contact could take many forms, such as a phone call, video chat, email or a face-to-face meeting. I help support donor families, live donors and transplant recipients in making the choices that are best for them about much or how little personal information they choose to share in these interactions,” she described. 
Direct contact may be an option for donations and transplants which occurred in Nova Scotia after Jan. 18, 2021, the date on which the new HOTDA legislation came into effect, and can happen at least one year after the transplant. 

“Supporting and accompanying our donor families during the raw and tender time of donation, post donation, and through the direct contact process is a deep privilege,” said Hemming. 

Just one organ donor can save up to eight lives; and one tissue donor can benefit as many as 75 others.

Learn more about the Legacy of Life Program