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Green Shirt Day In Support of Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness

by Jocelyn Ottenbreit

April 7, marks the second annual ‘Green Shirt Day’ that started in honor of Logan Boulet who lost his life in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6, 2018. Because of his selfless act of donating his organs on this day, he saved six lives.

Once news of his generous act became known, more than 100,000 Canadians were inspired to register to become organ donors, calling it the “Logan Boulet Effect” – the largest number of Canadians registered as organ donors due to one person or event. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness about organ donation and to encourage people around Canada to sign their donor cards in hopes to help save many lives. It is also to honor everyone involved in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

People are encouraged to wear green on April 7 and talk about the powerful impact of organ donation. It is also Organ Donation Awareness month across Canada for the month of April.

This year Green Shirt Day took on a whole new meaning for me personally as I tragically lost my nephew, Andrew, on February 17, 2020. He was in Calgary with his girlfriend for a Flames game as he was a die-hard fan! I got the call from my sister at 5:30 in the morning (never a good sign) and she told me that Andrew had slipped on ice fracturing his skull and she was in the Calgary Foothills hospital with Andrew and his family and that it looked ‘very, very, bad’. I was still trying to make sense of what she was talking about as I had been woken from a deep sleep and then the words that you never want to hear…‘They don’t think he’s going to make it’!

As I lay there in silence trying to process what I had just heard, my husband and I debated what we should do – do we drive to Calgary or go be with my mom when she gets the news? We didn’t know if we would get to the hospital in time but after some conversations with my family, my husband, son, sister and nephew, we decided we were going to drive there. We just really needed to be with my brother and our family. My daughter was on her honeymoon with her husband in Bali at the time so we quickly face timed them with the news and started our trek to Calgary.

The drive there felt like an eternity as we were getting updates from my sister and none of it was good. ‘Andrew is going for a scan now to confirm if there is a chance of any brain activity – they have brought up the subject of organ donation’.
I turned to my sister and the tears started flowing…I just had a feeling he was not going to make it. When we arrived at the hospital we were greeted by some family members who gave us the news that he was gone. After many tears and hugs we were able to see our beautiful nephew, although somewhat unrecognizable, as he lay there with swollen eyes and machines surrounding him, and on a respirator, all keeping him alive.

It is hard to explain what it was like that first initial moment when we entered his room. There is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing your own child watch the cousin he grew up with, who was like a brother to him, lay there knowing he will never be able to talk to him, laugh with him, have a beer with him. But he was brave and the first thing he asked was if he could put the bracelet Andrew got from his girlfriend, that he had forgot at our house two weeks before, on his wrist. As we watched in silence, seeing his mom lying beside him on the bed, seeing the distraught look in my brother’s face along with Andrew’s brother and sister, it was a moment I will never forget.

Andrew’s parents did not hesitate when the decision needed to be made about him being an organ donor. They spent over an hour in a room answering questions and the process would begin as to who the recipients of his organs would be. We were told it would take another full day before they would hopefully have everything in place, and we were able to spend another day talking to him and saying our goodbyes.

We were lucky to have all the immediate family present (except for my daughter and son-in-law who were working very hard at trying to arrange flights home from Bali, and my brother who lives in California). We formed a half-circle and held hands and said the ‘Our Father’ and then sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ as a sendoff to him as our final goodbye.

The staff at the Calgary Foothills hospital was amazing through this tragic experience! One nurse in particular, Dallas, was so kind-hearted and she shed tears with us as well saying how, even though as a critical care nurse she sees sadness all the time, but for some reason, this situation was different for her. She could feel the love we had for this sweet, beautiful boy, and the bond our family has.

Shortly before Andrew was to be taken to surgery, I remembered this video I saw on either Facebook or YouTube about the ‘Walk of Honor’ for a young man who had tragically lost his life and was going to be an organ donor. I asked some of the staff if we, as a family, could do this for Andrew and video him as he was being taken into surgery. One of Andrew’s favorite songs was ‘Shallow’ from the movie ‘A Star Is Born’ so we played this song as a tribute to him as he was led out the doors to become a hero – taken way to soon – on the eve of February 18, the night before his 23rd birthday!

Ironically, my brother received a letter in the mail today, April 7, saying that 7 individuals and their families have had their lives dramatically changed for the better because of his gracious gift. All of his major organs were successfully transplanted including his tissue and eye donation. Tissue donations alone can help up to 75 lives.

As I sit here wearing green with pride today, it does give some comfort knowing that someone has received his beautiful blue eyes, his warm heart, and he has given hope to so many other families.

Green Shirt Day symbolizes, that even in the most tragic of events and situations, there is always hope for others. Please sign your donor cards and be a hero like my nephew, Andrew Puetz! If you would like to see the tribute of Andrew’s life, you can find it here. 

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