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Closer to the heart: Curler feels late brother's presence at Scotties

Lauren Mann's journey to the Scotties was interrupted by the sudden death of her brother Adam. A year later, she finds herself playing for a Canadian curling title in the same city where the organ donor's heart beats on.

Adam Mann's heart donated to St. Catharines resident

Lauren Mann's journey to the Scotties was interrupted by the sudden death of her brother Adam. A year later, she finds herself playing for a Canadian curling title in the same city where the organ donor's heart beats on. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

ST. CATHARINES, ONT — A little more than a year ago, Lauren Mann was in the middle of her provincial curling qualifier, hoping to skip Quebec at the 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Just before her semifinal game on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, everything changed.

"My brother Adam passed away," Mann says, wiping tears from her face. "I got a call right before the semifinals that he passed away. He was epileptic. Twenty-two years old. And he drowned after a seizure."

Mann immediately left the rink and raced to the hospital to be with her family. That's also where she watched her team lose the final to Marie France-Larouche and miss the Scotties.

"It's heartbreaking. It will always be heartbreaking," she says. "I know people say time heals all, but I don't know how you ever get over that."

A year later, the pain is still very real for Mann. But she's trying to put it behind her as she competes at the Scotties with a different team from Quebec, this year playing third for skip Eve Belisle.

"The positive I was able to take out of it was really focusing on the curling," Mann says. "Because I know I didn't want to live the rest of my life saying I never came back to the Scotties because of that."

Right now Team Quebec is on a roll, having won six consecutive games heading into its Draw 12 matchup against Team Canada.

Mann admits she felt a bit of anxiety when she first arrived, thinking about her brother. That's all disappeared and now she's dialled in.

"There's a little bit of me that kind of connects curling and [Adam's death] together in both a good way and bad way," she says.

Her mom, dad, brother and sister are all in the crowd in St. Catharines, Ont., cheering the team on.

"It's really hard for our family but we try to do the best we can to do with it," Man says.

'I'm heading to his heart'

After Adam died, the family donated his heart. Where it ended up is remarkable.

"My brother's heart recipient lives in St. Catharines, and they managed to find us through whatever means. We've met them," says Mann.

"In a way he is here. When I knew the Scotties was in St. Catharines I was almost less stressed because I thought I'm heading to his heart."

Mann lights up when she talks about her brother.

"He was transgender," says Mann. "So it was my sister Rebecca who first came out then decided was transgender and wanted to live as a man so he was Adam."

During the pregnancy, Mann says her mother was sure she was having a boy, and the family called the baby Adam before birth.

Throughout his 22 years, Adam lived a life full of energy and exuberance, according to Mann. She had a special connection with her brother because the two shared a room while growing up.

"He just loved life," she says. "When he came out our family was really supportive and we embraced him. He was really inspiring in a lot of ways."

While Mann says it would be too much pressure to be playing this year's tournament for Adam, she is certainly carrying him with her here at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

"He tried curling a couple of times but it wasn't really his gig," she laughs. "But he was so supportive.

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