Terrace man reflects on personal tie to Green Shirt Day

Nation-wide initiative honours first anniversary of Humboldt Broncos bus crash, organ donation

Contributed photo From left: Gerald Mitchell, Carol Schmidt, Karleen Lemiski, Ryan Lemiski, and Ron Lemiski pose for a photo wearing shirts in recognition of Green Shirt Day. Ron was diagnosed with kidney failure last year and is hopeful for a matching living donor to come forward.

A Terrace family is sharing their story to increase awareness of organ donation in recognition of Green Shirt Day, a new country-wide initiative following the first anniversary of the horrific Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

On April 6, it will have been one year since 16 people were killed in the crash in rural Saskatchewan, including Broncos defenceman Logan Boulet.

Weeks before the tragedy, the 21-year-old Boulet had registered to become an organ donor. His donation saved the lives of six people and triggered the “Logan Boulet Effect,” the movement of more than 100,000 Canadians to register as organ donors.

Boulet’s family spearheaded the first National Green Shirt Day on Sunday, April 7.

“To date, this is the largest number of Canadians registering as organ donors due to one event or person,” according to the BC Transplant website.

READ MORE: Canada shows support for Green Shirt Day, Humboldt Bronco organ donor

The day hits close to home for Terrace resident Ron Lemiski.

The 51-year-old was diagnosed with kidney failure last year when his kidney function dropped to 21 per cent, below the 60 per cent limit of an average healthy kidney but six points above the level required to start dialysis treatment. Though dialysis does help keep a person with kidney failure alive, there is no cure for kidney disease except for a transplant.

As a registered organ donor, Lemiski says he signed the card on his BC driver’s license to make a difference for someone else. Now he’s hoping a matching living donor will do the same for him.

“If you’re signing up to be an organ donor, you’re signing up to save someone’s life,” Lemiski says. “When I signed my organ donor card on my BC license, I figured if I’m dying or I’ve died in an accident, maybe someone could benefit from the organs I have.”

According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, one organ donor has the potential to save up to eight lives. When it comes to those considering live organ donation, even if a donor isn’t a match to Lemiski, they enter a Living Donor Paired Exchange Program which allows incompatible pairs to still proceed to transplant by pairing with another duo.

In August, Lemiski is travelling to Prince George for more tests to assess his kidney function.

“I wouldn’t say it’s scary, but the results aren’t getting better. If anything, the best thing I can hope for is the number to stay the same,” he says.

His family wore green shirts of their own on April 7 in recognition of the day.

READ MORE: B.C. hockey coach to get kidney after peewee team’s video search

“Green Shirt Day hopes to honour, remember, and recognize all the victims and families of that fatal crash, and to continue Logan’s legacy, by inspiring Canadians to talk to their families and register as organ donors,” according to the project’s website.

Boulet’s parents say he was inspired by his coach and mentor Ric Suggitt, who was also donor and, when he died in 2017, saved six lives as well.

In 2016, more than 4,500 people in Canada were waiting for organs. About 2,800 organs were transplanted, while 260 people died waiting.

Interested in becoming a live organ donor for Ron Lemiski? Contact St. Paul’s Hospital Living Donor Program at 604.806.9027 or 1.877.922.9822 or email donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca.

— with files from Joti Grewal



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