Calgary

Logan Boulet effect causes spike in organ donor registration

Thousands of Albertans are signing up to donate their organs this week, in an apparent tribute to Humboldt Bronco Logan Boulet.

'There's a high likelihood that a young individual's organ is the one I received'

Humboldt Broncos player Logan Boulet, 21, was from Lethbridge, Alta. Boulet had recently signed an organ donation card and was kept on life support while matches were found for his organs. He was expected to save the lives of at least six people. (SJHL)

Possibly inspired by the donation of the late 21-year-old Humboldt Broncos Logan Boulet's organs, Albertans have been signing up in huge numbers to donate theirs.

According to Alberta Health Services, around 425 people generally sign up to donate their organs over a Sunday-Monday period.

This past weekend, 3,071 signed up.

On Alberta at Noon, CBC's Judy Aldous hosted a province-wide conversation about the hows and whys of organ donations, drawing in callers ranging from past organ donors to filmmakers to recipients, who said the donation changed everything.

Boulet story resonated deeply

Amy Montgomery, 34, received a liver transplant this summer and said the story of Logan Boulet resonates deeply with her.

"Knowing that this young man chose to sign his donor card and donate is just such a remarkable thing for someone so young," she said. "It just brings so much hope to me that the donor rates in Canada can rise and save people's lives — just like someone saved mine."

Montgomery was born with Biliary Atresia, a rare liver disease that affects 1-in-20,000 infants. She said that by the summer of 2017, she suffered acute fatigue, hospitalization, and jaundice. She could barely get out of bed, and had a healthy six-year-old son and a husband to look after.

"Anything to do with living a regular life seemed diminished," she said.

She went to Edmonton for a pre-assessment and was added to a donor list on a Thursday. Astonishingly, she waited only two days before a match was found and she received a new liver.

The Humboldt Broncos (Humboldt Broncos website)

Montgomery isn't sure why a match was found so quickly.

"I have a really common blood type. which helps, or hinders in some instances, because more people want it," she said.

"For me, I think it had a lot to do with size," she added. "Back to Logan: there's a chance my organ comes from a young adult, because they size match and blood type match, so there's a high likelihood that a young individual's organ is the one I received."

'Have that discussion with the people closest to you'

Jackie, an Edmonton nurse who works in emergency and palliative care, emphasized the need for would-be donors to communicate  to friends and family their wishes.

"If you want to be an organ donor, have that discussion with the people closest to you, because if you are unable to speak for yourself, it will be your family members who will decide, regardless of what you wish," she said.

"I have certainly been in the situation where I knew someone's wishes in advance, but then they passed away and their family actually declined for the tissues to be harvested," she added.

She said that loved ones are often forced, in a time of great stress and trauma, to make a difficult decision — which is what made the story of Logan Boulet and his family so powerful.

"When you're in that place of having lost someone so tragically, and faced with a difficult decision like that — sometimes, people's emotions lead them to make other choices that they think they wouldn't have made when the person was alive and well.

"It's just like anything else with end of life issues, whether it's sudden or whether its  expected: having conversations with the people who are closest to you with your loved ones is the most important part of ensuring that your wishes are followed upon your death."

'It has nothing to do with your age'

James Breckenridge, the President of the Canadian Transplant Society, reminded listeners and callers that there's no age limits on donors, either.

"The oldest donor right now was I believe 90," he said.

"It [donating organs] has nothing to do with your age — it has to do with the viability of your organs, how healthy the organ is.

"You have to remember also, your skin keeps regrowing at all times. Skin grafts that are taken for third degree burn victims can save their life. That's something that can be donated at any age, it doesn't matter what the age is.

"And — a lot of times, if you're 70 or 80, and you have lived a pretty healthy life, chances are they might be able to take one or two organs — but that's a decision we say to leave to the transplant team."


With files from Alberta at Noon

About the Author

Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: stephen.hunt@cbc.ca