Family hopes organ donation saves life after northern Sask. deaths

The chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band in Saskatchewan says the family of a young girl who took her own life is hoping to save a life by donating her heart valves.

Parents of young girl donate heart valves hoping to save other child's life

People came together in La Ronge, Sask. Friday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of three young girls. (Don Somers/CBC)

The chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band in Saskatchewan says the family of a young girl who took her own life is hoping to save a life by donating her heart valves. 

"She was very giving and when the family learned that she wasn't going to make it, the family wanted to give something back. The mom and dad decided that they would give her heart valves to another child to give life to another child," said Tammy Cook-Searson. 

The young girl from La Ronge, Sask., had been in a coma at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. She died in hospital last Tuesday.

She was one of three young girls—all between the ages of 12 and 14— from La Ronge and Stanley Mission who took their own lives in the span of four days earlier this month. 

"To give at their darkest time and think of other people is an incredible gift," said Cook-Searson. "Just to be able to give to another family that second chance of a life and giving your own child's heart valves so they'll be able to live healthy."

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson says the entire community is on edge. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Cook-Searson said the community has rallied around each other in an effort to prevent it from happening again.

"We look at our health region and it has one of the highest suicide rates in the country," she said. "We want to be able to help our northern Saskatchewan communities today and into the future."

The five-year average suicide rate for youth 19 and under within the Mamawetan Churchill River Regional Health Authority between 2010 to 2015 is 32.18 per 100,000 population, according to eHealth Saskatchewan. 

Three girls between the ages of 12 and 14 took their lives within four day. Two of the girls were from Stanley Mission. The other girl was from La Ronge. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

In the immediate aftermath of the three young girls' deaths, the communities had identified more than 20 other young people as being high risk to also take their own lives. Cook-Searson said counsellors and therapists have been working around the clock to ensure all children, parents, teachers and residents have the proper support right now.

Cook-Searson said they had a community meeting on Friday to come up with a strategy on how to deal with suicide in the communities.

"We have six separate communities in the Lac La Ronge Indian Band so we have to make sure we have the supports in place for everyone," she said. 

Despite still grieving, Cook-Searson said she continues to be inspired by how everyone in La Ronge and Stanley Mission are coming together.

"Suicide doesn't have any boundaries. Nobody is invincible. It doesn't matter what background you come from, what family you come from, race, or gender. It impacts so many people."

Anyone who doesn't feel that they have someone to talk to can reach out to the provincial health line at 811, which has mental health resources available.