On angel wings

This cow was auctioned off for $6,300 with proceeds going to the Angel’s Legacy Project. The project is out to sign up more people to become organ donors. (Peter Lozinski)

Angel’s Legacy Project hoping to raise awareness about importance, and challenges, of organ donation

Taryn Svenson knew what it was like to watch a loved one wait for an organ donor.

Now, she also knows what it’s like when your loved one is a donor.

Svenson volunteers with the Angels Legacy Project, a not-for-profit organization that aims to increase awareness about the process of organ donation and advocate for changes to what can be an arduous process.

She got involved because her brother in law, Grant Graham, had been waiting for a kidney transplant for two years. While working in her business, Reach Out Digital Media, she was approached by Terry Switenky, who founded the organization.

He came for marketing help.

“It was so personal to me that it was a no-brainer,” Svenson said.

Her brother-in-law, Grant, even signed on as a director of the organization’s board.

But two weeks ago, Grant’s time ran out. He had a sudden stroke. His family was faced with the tough choice to leave him on life support so he could donate his organs. They went through the process for 48 hours, each time seeing their loved one, saying goodbye again, and being asked if they wanted to go forward with the organ donation process.

“You could never imagine it until you’re actually there,” Svenson said.

“It was so difficult for me to watch my sister having to go into that room and say goodbye to her husband 15 times. I think something needs to be changed.

“We were given the opportunity three or four times to end the process at any time if it was too emotional for my sister. There was a time she almost did, but we knew it wasn’t the right thing to do. It was the most emotional experience I’ve ever been a part of.”

One message the Angel’s Legacy Project is trying to get out is that just because you have signed up to be an organ donor and have the sticker on your health card does not mean your organs will necessarily be donated when you die. Family members can still veto the process. The organization wants people to know the process that needs to happen before your final wish can be realized.

One way they’re doing that is with the Ordon Donor Creed Card.

The Organ Donor Creed is a promise made by the signee of the card to encourage signees to provide clear and concise last wishes in regards to organ donation. It functions as a vehicle by which family members can be informed, and it can help to prevent a possible veto of organ donation by family members. The card and a licence plate frame are obtained by donating to the Angel’s Legacy cause. It can be issued for the signee’s lifetime and can be uniquely coded in order to electronically log the donor’s intent with their medical records.

“On my last day on Earth, I Pledge as my last wish, with my own free will — my organs — for transplant, as determined by medical specialists,” the card reads.

“I have notified my immediate family and doctors office to release my medical records, if required, for evaluation as an organ donor by transplant specialists. No remuneration whatsoever will be made to any estate, family member or other parties for my organs. These wishes are binding by my signature and witnessed by a family member and/or my power of attorney and will not be subject to veto by any party outside the medical profession.”

The card has room for signatures from the cardholder, a witness and includes a space for a medical contact number.

The initiative, though, is costly. The cards and licence plate frames are expensive to make. So far, volunteers with the organization have been putting in the funds themselves. Friday, they got a big boost.

A friend of Switenky went to his boss at Double Diamond farms and said they were looking to raise some money. Double Diamond then donated a cow for auction. The cow went up for auction at Northern Livestock Sales Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. It sold for $3,300, back to the auctioneer. They donated the funds and put the cow back up for auction. It sold for an additional $3,000, bringing the total donation to $6,300.

“I’m overwhelmed right now,” Svenson said.

“It’s a huge help for us to be able to order more plate frames.”

Some SGI dealers are currently waiting for the frames. The funds will also help with forms needed to submit to SGI and with developing educational materials for the classroom.

While the past few weeks have been hard, seeing the support and spreading the message gives Svenson hope.

“We knew what it was like waiting, and now we know what it’s like to be a donor in the process. It’s a lengthy, gruelling process,” she said.

“Everything happens for a reason and there’s a reason we got involved.”

Brent Brooks, the owner of Northern Livestock Sales, said he was happy to help.

“We think it’s really important. Organ donors and those waiting for an organ is a very important cause. Very worthwhile.”

Brooks said his business often holds charity auctions at each of its locations.

‘We were more than happy to do it for them.”

With Friday’s donation and the continued work of the Angel’s Legacy Project, Svenson hopes to see more people understand the organ donation process, sign up to donate and maybe even push for change to make the process less stressful.

“We want everyone in Saskatchewan to be driving around with these licence plates,” she said, “Sending that message of how important organ donation is.”

The plate frames can be purchased at participating SGI dealers or online at https://angelslegacyproject.com/