By Lethbridge Herald on March 5, 2021.
Jim Lowes will never forget where he was when he heard of the Humbolt Broncos bus crash almost three years ago.
And it didn’t take the 61-year-old resident of Burlington, Ont. long to know what he needed to do next.
Like many Canadians from coast-to-coast, Lowes was horrified on April 6, 2018 when he learned of the Broncos crash that killed 16 people, including Lethbridge’s Logan Boulet.
“For me, I can tell you where I was when I heard about the bus crash,” said Lowes. “For me, as a father and as a rep hockey coach for many, it was just devastating. I can’t even describe the pain I could feel for those parents and it changed my life. I coached rep hockey at the time and I was taking the bus. It just changed the way I thought and about my players and things like that. But I’ll always remember where I was the day I heard about the bus crash.”
But out of the tragedy came inspiration, thanks to Boulet’s decision to become an organ donor on his 21st birthday that ultimately created the The Logan Boulet Effect, with an estimated 150,000 Canadians registering as organ and tissue donors in the weeks following the accident.
That prompted Lowes to look into becoming an anoymous living donor and that goal that came to fruition Jan. 20 when he anonymously donated a kidney.
Lowes’ gesture and many more will be celebrated during the third annual Green Shirt Day April 7.
Leading up to Green Shirt Day, the Canadian Transplant Association, the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Canadian Blood Services and Canada’s organ and tissue donation community will be asking Canadians to take the time to consider organ and tissue donation, find out how to register in their province or territory and to have a conversation about it.
Going virtual for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Green Shirt Day slogan is “Together Strong”, encouraging Canadians to don green and unite via social media and bring enthusiasm to online platforms.
Still recovering from his procedure Friday afternoon at his home in Ontario, Lowes credited The Logan Boulet Effect for setting him on his journey.
“First of all, how many kids that age are thinking about donating organs?” said Lowes. “Even as a father of five kids, most of my kids at that age were not even thinking about where their organs were going. If I would have brought it up they would have probably laughed and thought ‘Yeah, right. I’m 18 or 20-years-old. Why do I have to worry about something like that?’”
“Here’s a kid like Logan who has the fortitude to think ahead. I’m sure when he planned on doing that he wasn’t thinking in the next years he’d be donating his organs to someone. It just shows at the flick of a switch how life changes for everybody.
“Now I tell my all my kids ‘I hope you went online and signed up.’”
In late-2018, Lowes set upon his goal of becoming an organ donor, checking online to see if he had even signed up for a donation.
“I wasn’t positive whether I had or not,” he said. “In Ontario at one point, it was always on your driver’s license. I went online and I found out I had signed up for it already. So that’s when I got to thinking if there was something else I could do to maybe help, a charity event or anything.”
Checking out his options, Lowes learned he was too old for a liver donation.
But when he asked about kidney donations and was informed people can live with one, Lowes headed to St Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.
“I took a battery of tests,” he said. “You have to see a lot of people. You have to see cardiologists, social workers and other doctors. It’s a drawn out process.”
After three or four months of tests, Lowes was told he wasn’t healthy enough to give a kidney.
“That set me back a little because I didn’t think they were going to come and say that to me,” he said.
Working alongside his son, Koyde, Lowes put himself on an eating and workout program and ended up dropping 40 pounds.
When he was deemed healthy enough, however, Lowes’ work schedule conflicted with possible surgery times.
“My family owns a business and I help them with it,” he said. “So I wasn’t able to make the first round. Then when they gave me the day of Jan. 20, that was great. The only thing I was worried about was COVID and whether they were going to bounce me. But when the hospital contacted me in December they felt comfortable that it would be a go and that the government was going to allow it.”
Prior to the surgery, Toby Boulet, Logan’s father, and Lowes spoke on the phone.
“I just phoned him and said ‘I want to thank you for being inspired,’” said Toby. “We just talked about his procedure and when he had to go in. The funny part was I was in a lineup of phone calls (to Lowes). It had to be shorter than I wanted it to be because he had other calls. We agreed I would call the day before he went in. I just wanted to tell him we’re very proud and we’re very inspired that he was inspired. It was a good conversation.”
Toby noted the work Lowes had to go through just to make himself healthy enough to be a donor.
“They told him he was too heavy and he had to get his son to train. He had to go work out and lose weight and get it done. He’s a amazing guy and it’s not for fame or fortune. He’s just doing the right thing. I don’t know if I could give my kidney, to tell you the truth.
“It’s a big decision and an anonymous donor is a whole other step. People donate livers or kidneys to family or friends that need it, but he did it on his own because he was inspired and to our family, that’s what it’s all about. It’s huge. Register online, make your intent known, make a decision, do what you want to do, but make a decision, tell your family and let’s go. He went above and beyond and we’re so impressed with him. He’s a first-class guy.”
Having also communicated with Toby on Facebook a few times prior to the call, Lowes said the feeling is mutual.
“I really look up to Logan’s parents,” he said. “It’s a great cause that they’re doing, but it’s not easy that every day you’re reminded, especially when you’re doing an event like this (Green Shirt Day) when it really comes to the forefront. But they’re such positive-thinking people. Bernadine and Toby are such inspiring people. If you’re down, they feel your pain. They’re those types of people. I recently told Toby via Facebook ‘Once all this (pandemic) clears I can fly out to Alberta and see you and meet you in person.’ I look up to them. I’ve had people say I’m a hero and I’m definitely not a hero, not even close. Heros are people like Toby and Bernadine who have to go through so much.”
Lethbridge resident Rhonda Dawes donated a kidney anonymously back in October.
She understands first-hand what Lowes had to do to become a donor.
“I’ve been there and did all the same steps,” said Dawes. “It’s so awesome. To me, it’s like a no-brainer. I have two (kidneys). I only need one, why not? I can understand not everyone is willing to do a living donation, I totally understand. But you have nothing to lose by signing your drivers license or for deceased donations. I would love to see everybody sign their card or register for sure. The day before my surgery the new owner of Simpson Plumbing (Dawes’ employers) signed his registration card. That touched me the most.”
With Green Shirt Day month away, Lowes is doing his part of make sure the intiative gets the spotlight in his area of the country.
“(Today) I’ve already talked to the Mayor of Burlington’s office. I took a green shirt down to her today and they’re going to do a proclamation or something for Green Shirt Day. I already have a bunch friends who have already ordered green shirts for April 7.”
Lowes friend Mike Zigomanis, a former NHL player who won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, is the morning host of The Fan 590 Sports Radio and has also offered to help.
“He texted me to give him a shout when I feel better and I’m going to talk to him about helping me promote it.”
Back in Alberta, locals can enjoy Green Shirt Day via cyberspace.
“The people that are really behind our campaign isn’t just the every day person, it’s also the people who are going to receive an organ transplant and the people who are in the business, the transplant surgeons, the hospitals, they’re just over the moon with the Green Shirt Day campaign,” said Toby. “So we’re going to focus on virtual and you know what? Wear a green shirt. Wear your favourite Roughriders jersey, wear your Edmonton E jersey, whatever you want to wear and take a picture of yourself or your friends, put it on social media and hashtag Green Shirt Day, hashtag Logan Boulet Effect, hashtag Together Strong.”
A member of the axe throwing community, Dawes received a special gift from her fellow members.
“They had an axe created to commemmorate me giving away a kidney. They did an edging on the axe blade and did the two leaves that represent living organ donations.”
The Together Strong slogan unites the other charities which are part of the organ donation program that have taken a hit the past year due to the pandemic.
“Organ registrations dropped by 39 per cent last year,” said Toby. “So we need to get Together Strong and focus on getting people to say ‘What is my intent? My intent is to be an organ donor.’ and register online. If it’s not to be an organ donor, tell your family members and that’s fine. Whatever your intent, just do it. Talk to your family and help out a Canadian if you can.”
For more information on Green Shirt Day, visit http://www.greenshirtday.ca/be-inspired.
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