By Valerie G. Barnes-Connell The LaRonge Northerner
She was known as “the Butterfly Girl” and she loved yellow roses.
A square on the 20th Anniversary Saskatchewan Transplant Program Donor Memorial Quilt features a butterfly and a yellow rose in memory of Tenille Hounjet. Tenille died Sept. 20, 1999 from injuries sustained in an accident Sept. 19.
In the intervening hours between the accident and her death, with Tenille on life support, her family and friends grappled with a choice and decided to donate Tenille’s organs and tissue to the Saskatchewan Transplant Program, so that out of their tragedy other people were given hope.
Tenille’s mother, Wendy Dice, is sponsoring a tour of the quilt to La Ronge to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation.
The Quilt will be on display at the Conexus Credit Union April 26 and 27 (Monday and Tuesday), at the Jeannie Bird Clinic on April 28 and 29 (Wednesday and Thursday), the Java Shack on April 30 and May 1 (Friday and Saturday) and at the La Ronge Health Centre May 3 and 4 (Monday and Tuesday).
A speaker from the Saskatchewan Transplant Program will speak at the La Ronge Health Centre on Tues. May 4 at 7:30 p.m. Members of the public are invited to attend.
The quilt is accompanied by two binders containing tributes to the people whose organs and/or tissue has been donated to the program over the past 10 years.
Mildred Nichol, of the Saskatchewan Transplant Program, spoke with The Northerner about the program.
Although organ transplants have been done in the province since the 1960s, no formalized program was in place.
The Saskatchewan Transplant program was established in July 1989. In 1999 a 10-year anniversary quilt was created and “now we have the 20th Anniversary Quilt.
All families of donors were invited to submit a square for the quilt in memory of their family member. Families could also give permission to the quilt artist to design a square for their family member.
Many people said things like, “oh, she was such a breath of sunshine, could you put a sun on there? It was whatever the family wanted, something of signifi cance to their family member.”
A celebration was held in Saskatoon at St. Paul’s Hospital for family members. The quilt and two books containing a page about each of the donors could be viewed by families. There was also a candlelight service, where families were invited to light a candle and name their family member. The event ended with a memorial lunch.
The family of each donor was presented with a Gift of Life bronze medallion, which was embossed with a wheat sheaf and ribbon.
“The green ribbon is for organ and/or tissue donation awareness.” The Quilt has been on the road most of the time since Oct. 3.
“Someone took the quilt home that day (Oct. 3) so they could have it in their local community.” The binder contains a picture of the quilt square, a picture and a biography of each donor.
“The whole point of this is to honour the donors and their families and, of course, to promote organ and/or tissue donations so that other families will make that decision when their family member dies.”
Organs, which can be donated, include: heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and small bowel.
Tissues include cornea, bone, tendons, ligaments and the heart for valves.
The cornea is the outer, clear part of the lining of the eye. “Sometimes people have eye disease that affects the cornea. Then they can receive sight from a tissue donation. Sometimes we can’t use the whole heart for a transplant, but we might still be able to use the valves for valve replacement. That’s especially important for children because if you use human valve tissue, then children don’t have to be on blood thinners.”
Dice said it’s important to talk to family members and make them aware of the importance of organ donation and to discuss choices with family members.
“When you are in that position and somebody is pronounced brain dead, it’s a test of faith, because how do you know – doctors make mistakes and you want to hope.”
She also voiced concern for people in the north. “I didn’t realize … so many people up here are just waiting. They have to travel for dialysis.”
Information from the Saskatchewan Transplant Program shows 435 people in Saskatchewan are living a kidney transplant, 22 people in Saskatchewan received a kidney transplant in 2009 and 109 are waiting for a kidney transplant in Saskatchewan. Ten other transplants were done on Saskatchewan residents in 2009.
Dice also wants to warn people about the importance of wearing, and ensuring children are wearing seat belts while travelling in vehicles.
“So many people let their kids lie down and they shouldn’t do that. Tenille took her seat belt off to sleep and didn’t live to tell about it.”
She also reminds people to stop and rest rather than driving tired.
Saskatchewan residents, 18-years and older, can attach an organ and tissue donor sticker to their Saskatchewan Health Card . Anyone under 18 requires the consult of an adult to consent to be eligible as an organ and/or tissue donor.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & 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 the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at ShareYourLife.org or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov
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 (see allotransplantation). 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.