By Clara Ho, Sun Media - Edmonton Sun
Brooke Kolodychuk's world came crashing down nine years ago when she and her family made the difficult decision of taking son Sean off life-support after he suffered a massive brain injury.
But she said she seeks comfort knowing his organs and tissue donations have saved several lives.
"When he died ... there was a physical pain in my heart that died and stays dead forever," Kolodychuk said. "But we look forward to hearing from recipients of his organs (through anonymous letters), knowing some good came of this tragedy and that people can continue their journey in life."
Kolodychuk was among the group of 90 organ and tissue donors, recipients and family members who gathered yesterday morning at the TransAlta Arts Barns in Old Strathcona for a candlelight service honouring those who have saved lives by donating viable organs and tissues.
Attendees lit candles and shared stories about loved ones, each person donning an emerald green sash signifying the sign of hope for organ and tissue donation. After the service, family and friends hugged and offered words of encouragement.
This was the third annual service held by the GoodHearts Mentoring Foundation, which helps raise awareness about organ and tissue donation, and provides financial support to transplant patients and emotional support to patients, donors and families.
At the vigil, Kolodychuk bravely stood before the crowd and told of losing her son, whom she remembered as an avid hockey player and loving older brother to his sister Jill.
She said the 23-year-old and his friends had been on their way to a Tragically Hip concert in November 2000 when he slid off a bannister at an LRT station and smashed his head on the concrete platform below.
Not long before his death, Sean and Jill had discussed the idea of becoming organ donors and signed their donor cards. As a result, Sean was able to donate all of his organs and many of his tissues when he died.
"Talking to someone in your family about organ donation is key," Kolodychuk said.
Silvio Dobri, one of the founders of GoodHearts, urged people to speak frankly about death with their loved ones and consider becoming organ donors.
He said there were 30 organ donors that saved 245 lives in 2008. But that year, there were still 621 people who were on the University of Alberta Hospital's organ transplant list, and 51 people who died waiting for a transplant.
"Nobody likes to talk about death," said Dobri, who had a heart transplant 11 years ago after suffering a heart attack and undergoing triple- bypass surgery. "But your gift could save someone's life."
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: recycleMe.org - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant.