It was bittersweet but Deanna Desjarlais spent last Friday at the South Cariboo Farmer’s Market trying to get more people on the organ donor’s list.
It’s what her son Cayden would have wanted to mark the anniversary of his death, she said. When he died in a motorcycle crash last year, five of Cayden’s organs - heart, liver, both kidneys and islet cells - were given to strangers.
Desjarlais recently heard from a young woman who had received his heart. She was 28 years old - the same age as Cayden - and had a six-year-old son.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to be honouring him and I know he wouldn’t want to have it any other way,” said Desjarlais, who now volunteers with the BC Transplant Society. “It’s bittersweet for me. I’m sad but you live life and pass it on and knowing that his organs have saved five lives is super important.”
By lunchtime last Friday, Desjarlais estimated she and her sister Debbie Lynn had signed up 30 organ donors. They also met organ recipients, including a man who received a donated eyeball, and other donor families.
“It’s just been a beautiful day for me because I’ve met recipients so they have shared their emotions with me,” Desjarlais said.
“For me that’s the biggest joy I’m getting today, hearing the stories of recipients or the recipient’s families. This is Cayden’s journey, this is what he would have wanted.”
The sisters say they plan to come out every year around this time to promote organ donation. They came out on the long weekend this year but plan to do it a week earlier next time. That’s because Cayden loved spending the long weekend at the Merritt Mountain Music Festival.
“I’m a firm believer that Cayden’s been here and he’s been visiting us,” Lynn said. “Knowing he saved so many lives, it’s a blessing.”
According to statistics from the Provincial Health Services Authority, 2021 was a record year for transplants in B.C., with 529 patients receiving organs, the majority from dead donors.