The power of a single conversation


Saturday, April 06, 2019
Dr. Graham Sher

By Graham Sher

As we pause to mark the anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and remember the lives that were tragically cut short, I’m reminded of how in times of enormous crisis, Canadians invariably step up.

Canadians collectively rolled up their sleeves after the events of 9/11, just as they did in last year’s van attack in Toronto; for Ottawa audiences, the recent Westboro station crash was no different. After the Humboldt crash, we saw a dramatic influx of individuals willing to donate. For several months after, there was a three-fold increase in the number of blood donors in Saskatchewan.

We are humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support that came into our system this time last year. It is a reminder of how vital our work is at Canadian Blood Services. We are part of a lifeline that is there when needed, thanks to the ongoing generosity of donors across the country.

What was unique about Humboldt, however, was the massive impact it had on organ and tissue donation. What’s more, it all stemmed from a short conversation Logan Boulet, who played defense for the Broncos junior hockey team, had with his family.

In 2017, his former coach and trainer, Richard (Sluggo) Suggit, suffered a brain aneurysm. Six of his organs were donated. That gift had stayed with Logan, who promptly registered to become an organ donor when he turned 21 last March and made his wishes known.

His father Toby has since said he told his son no one would want his organs by the time he died. Logan’s mortality wasn’t something his father wanted to dwell on, but their conversation was clear in his mind after crisis struck on that stretch of Saskatchewan highway as the Broncos headed to a playoff game. It’s what led his parents to donate his organs and directly help six other people in the process.

Amid all the darkness of that time, Logan’s dramatically powerful story was a glimmer of light. It resonated deeply with people and moved them to act. Committed to carrying on his legacy, his family continues to advocate for people to register as organ donors, and following the tragedy, more than 100,000 people did register. 

I can’t recall any other incident that has resulted in such a dramatic outpouring from Canadians.

That is the power of a single conversation.

What I have found interesting about Logan’s story is just how prominent and clearly his wishes were known by his family and friends. Not only had this young man registered to be an organ donor, but his family knew that he wanted his organs to go to someone who needed them. I suspect not many his age would do the same. When you’re young and invincible, death just isn’t on your radar.

But the thousands of Canadians waiting for transplants desperately need it to be on everyone’s radar.

Everyone needs to register and to make their intentions known to their loved ones when they do.

We also know from our work with countries that have some of the highest organ donation rates in the world that improving organ donation is not simply related to consent models and legislation. The most significant impact comes from ensuring the availability of highly specialized experts at the front line who are able to appropriately identify and refer potential donors; having effective medical management of potential donors, as well as skilled staff to provide family support and be involved in donation conversations.

They’re not easy conversations, but lives depend on them.

To carry on what’s become known as “The Logan Boulet Effect,” his family is collaborating with the Canadian Transplant Association, Canadian Blood Services and the Kidney Foundation of Canada, to raise awareness about Green Shirt Day (April 7).

Part of a month-long campaign that culminates with National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (April 21-27), we want to raise awareness about the ongoing need for organ donation in this country, alongside the Boulet family as a tribute to Logan and the inspirational gift of life he has given all of us.

Countless lives will be saved because of that one conversation Logan had with his family. On Green Shirt Day, I urge you to honour the legacy of this young man by registering as a donor in your province and having the conversation with your loved ones.

Visit organtissuedonation.ca/en to register now.

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