Bronco player's teacher encourages conversations around organ donation
'One of the worst and most beautiful things that exist in the human condition'
The spike in Albertans signing up to become organ donors is one of the few silver linings to emerge out of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
As much as the story — inspired by the actions of 21-year-old Logan Boulet — has resonated with Albertans, it hits particularly close to home for Jared Heidinger.
The biology teacher at Lethbridge's Winston Churchill High School taught Boulet and his other students about importance of organ donation through his own story of personal tragedy.
"Organ donation is one of the worst and most beautiful things that seem to exist in the human condition," Heidinger told the Calgary Eyeopener. "It's really hard to go through but you know that it's good and someone else is happy."
The hardest decision
Heidinger lost his wife Krista due to complications from a pulmonary embolism in 2009, just two days after she gave birth to their third child.
The unexpected tragedy forced him to make a decision about a topic the couple had never discussed.
"Krista and I hadn't talked about the organ donation piece before this because she was so young," Heidinger said. "But everyone in our family agreed … and I felt like if Krista was able to speak to me she would say 'hey look, if we believe what we believe, I'm in a better place now so let's save some lives.'"
Knowing her death would result in some good, however, didn't lessen the shock, said Heidinger, adding it's crucial prospective organ donors discuss their wishes with their families.
"Such a big part of this story is that Logan spoke with his family openly about it and made it very clear to his family what he desired," he said.
Teaching through tragedy
Heidinger has also been open in talking about his experience — even using it as a teaching tool in his science classes.
"When I teach Biology 20 or Biology 30, there are pieces that directly relate to my story in our curriculum," he said.
But the benefit in sharing goes beyond the academic.
It also helps him connect with his students.
"Kids want to know who you are and what makes you tick, and all of us go through hard times in life."
Like Krista's death, Boulet's passing is a bittersweet experience for those who knew him.
Heidinger said the community is reeling from the death of the young man he describes as solid, happy and hard-working. But they are also finding hope in knowing his passing will help so many others.
Boulet signed his organ donor card just weeks before the bus crash on April 7. As many as six lives may have been saved because of his donation.
Boulet had just been accepted to the University of Lethbridge, where he planned to study education and become a teacher.
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