Newfoundlander saved by Calgary girl's heart joins hockey fundraiser to mark late teen's legacy
Newfoundland teenage boy who received Marit McKenzie's heart played in her honour
A Calgary teen who died four years ago and donated her organs was remembered on Tuesday with a hockey game — and one of the players was the young man who received her heart.
Marit McKenzie died in 2013 of a pulmonary embolism.
One of the budding artist's passions happened to be organ donation, after watching her best friend go through the process of receiving a life-saving liver transplant.
That experience inspired Marit to devote her Grade 12 senior project at the Calgary Christian School (CCS) to raising money for the David Foster Foundation, which supports Canadian families with children in need of organ transplants.
More than 400 students and teachers from CCS came out Tuesday for the fifth annual Marit Cup — where the students take on the teachers in a fundraising hockey game for the David Foster Foundation.
This year, Tanner Fitzpatrick, who received Marit's heart, came from Newfoundland to help celebrate her legacy.
In 2013, he was in end-stage heart failure at age 14 and was in desperate need of a transplant.
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"To everyone's surprise a donor heart became available after six days on the wait list, and on Jan. 29, 2013, Tanner received the gift of life from an anonymous donor," the family said in a statement.
That donor was Marit.
"It did not take him long to realize he was the recipient of Marit McKenzie's gift. Tanner began to follow her story and watched from a distance as Marit's legacy and spirit left behind continued to inspire others," his family said.
In 2016, the Fitzpatrick family travelled west to meet the McKenzie family.
'She gave me another chance at life'
"In a private and emotional meeting, Tanner gifted the McKenzie family the opportunity to hear the heart inside his chest that connected the two families," the family said in a statement.
Tanner said it's a big honour to be able to play in this year's Marit Cup.
"She gave me another chance at life," Tanner said. "It means a lot, it's amazing."
Marit's liver, pancreas and both kidneys were also donated in four separate surgeries, and two people got the gift of sight with cornea transplants.
Some of Marit's tendons and bone tissue were also preserved, to be used for reconstructive surgery at a later date.
Mark Klassen, who has one of Marit's kidneys and her pancreas, will be at the game for the second year in a row.
Marit's father, Bruce McKenzie, said one of his daughter's legacies should be this simple message.
"Sign your donor card."
In Alberta, you can also sign up to the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry here.
With file from Justin Pennell