In 2001, staff at the DTBV began exploring ways of recognising the wonderful generosity of donor families. They investigated various possibilities but decided that a Tree of Life on public display would be a fitting tribute.
At about this time, the Mears family contacted the DTBV to say that they had asked family and friends attending the funeral of their son Ben (a tissue donor), to donate to the DTBV rather than give flowers.
Family members were asked if they would consider using the donated money to commission a mural onto which leaves could be attached with the names of donors. The Mears Family agreed immediately because Ben had been an artist.
In 2002, the Tree of Life was designed and painted by artist Alda Bruveris and is displayed in the foyer of the Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria.
It remains a lasting tribute to the memory of Ben Mears and all donors. The mural is a stylised tree to which leaves of different colours are attached. The tree has a range of green, yellow and red leaves reflecting the cycle of seasons and grief responses. The leaves bear the first name or each tissue donor and are placed on the Tree at the end of each month. Twelve months later the Tree is full of donor leaves, reflecting the vast contribution donors and their families have made over the previous year. A photo of the Tree and the leaf belonging to the donor is given to each family as a tribute to their generosity.
The mural was unveiled by Mr and Mrs Mears at a function in November 2002. This marked the beginning of the Annual Leaf Day which is held to recognise the gift of tissue donation. Every year the DTBV hosts an afternoon tea for family members and friends of the donors from the preceding year. During the formal part of the proceedings a family speaks about their family member and their experiences of donation. This is usually followed by talks from tissue recipients, surgeons and/or researchers, who speak about the benefits of the donation. The formal proceedings are followed by afternoon tea.
This is an opportunity for families, friends and staff to talk together and is often a very moving experience for those involved.
We welcome families to come and see the Tree of Life with their loved one’s leaf attached so please feel free to contact one of our Tissue Donation Nurse Specialists to arrange a suitable time for your visit.