By Lethbridge Herald on April 6, 2021.
The Logan Boulet Effect has inspired Brandy Hehn to keep telling her story.
That effect and those stories will continue to be celebrated as the third Green Shirt Day takes place today, celebrating Boulet — one of 16 people killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6, 2018 — and his decision to become an organ donor a little over a month prior to the accident. That decision ultimately saved six lives and created the Logan Boulet Effect with over 100,000 Canadians following his lead to have a talk with their families and become organ donors.
This year’s Green Shirt Day theme is “Together Strong”
Given the support Hehn has received and the people she has inspired since becoming the recipient of a liver in 2009 and a kidney last October, this year’s theme is apt for the resident of Regina.
Hearing Logan’s story how he was inspired by his coach and mentor Ric Suggitt, who passed on June 27th, 2017 and was also an organ donor — saving six lives — made Hehn want to continue sharing her journey.
“I thought if Logan’s family continued to speak about that and help other families, why couldn’t I?,” said Hehn. “So I love being that third in that Logan Boulet Effect story where Ric inspired him and Logan inspired me to get that word out there. In turn I had people who had never signed up before send me a screen shot on their computer (saying) ‘Because of you, I signed up.’ It was because of Logan that I decided to talk about it. It really, truly, is the definition of an effect.
“I remember everybody was following along with that tragedy and this one thing arose from that, this beautiful story of this kid who was inspired by his coach and just how that story came out of such a tragic thing.”
Hehn credited Boulet’s parents, Toby and Bernadine, for continuing to talk of their son’s inspiration to countless Canadians.
“First, a credit to them for being able to speak about it over and over. I can’t imagine how difficult that is,” she said. “But for somebody who has already had an organ transplant and was in need of another one, it really meant a lot there was somebody out there advocating for us. Just knowing there are other people out there wanting to help.”
Hehn said Saskatchewan never really had a big organ donation campaign.
“You never really heard about it, to be honest. When I had my liver transplant, I had to go to another province to get it. It had to be done in Edmonton and I had to go to Saskatoon for my kidney. Just having that awareness on the program was good, but just from a personal perspective it was nice to see people being inspired. Maybe it didn’t directly affect their family, but there are people who keep wanting to advocate for it.
“You really have no idea until you talk to somebody who is super-involved in this, it really is inspiring people to sign up. It’s incredible.”
Hehn was 17 when she was diagnosed with a rare liver condition called Autoimmune hepatitis
“Your body doesn’t think its liver is its own and just starts attacking it,” she said. “I was diagnosed at 17 and between 17 and 25 was when I really fought my battle. Of all the kids that were on that bus, that was a lot of the other age groups I was in when I was fighting my transplant.”
Hehn said she spoke of her liver transplant before the Broncos bus accident.
At the time, though, most of the people she spoke to didn’t know of anyone impacted by organ donation.
That changed after the accident.
“Now, it has really changed the whole conversation,” she said.
Roughly eight years after getting her liver transplant, Hehn began having troubles with her kidneys, starting dialysis about five years ago.
“In dialysis lots of stories would come out and it gave all of us hope that maybe we’ll get our kidneys soon and maybe we won’t have to wait,” she said. “It gave us all hope we might get our kidney sooner. It was really wonderful.”
Hehn said when she was in for her kidney transplant, two more recipients came in a day or two later for transplants.
“Which is just unheard of. I really believe because of Logan a lot of us, especially kidney-wise, got kidneys,” she said. “It’s been really wild seeing the amount of people come and go from dialysis. You basically only leave dialysis one of two ways. The week I got mine, four of us got kidneys and four of us passed away. You can really go on either side of that. I remember talking to the nurse at the front desk. She called and said ‘Brandy, I’ve never been so excited to white out somebody’s name before.’ She said they only white out names in two instances and in my instance it was for the right one. It affects so many people, not just the people it’s happening to.”
Hehn recalled the feedback she received before she went into the hospital for her kidney.
“Hundreds of people who you think don’t even follow your story and their families are happy for you. It’s just a big, inspirational bubble of happiness. Everyone is having a good day when that happens.”
Now, Hehn is confident the word about the importance of becoming an organ donor is getting out in her province.
“My friend at dialysis, he was waiting for a kidney for close to 20 years and we actually ended up getting a kidney two months apart from each other,” she said. “Even seeing him get his kidney, I really believe it was because of Logan. He was a really hard match and I really believe those over 100,000 people in Canada, if they hadn’t signed up, I don’t know if he would have gotten his in time. He deserved his so much. He got his two months before me and that inspired me even more. Even if it’s just reframing your mind on if one is coming or not, we’re so grateful to the Boulets for keeping that hope alive for all of us.”
For Hein, the past 12 years since her liver transplant has been a full journey filled with people who have helped her along the way.
“I always think that not only was getting my kidney such a gift from the person who gave it to me, but it’s also a gift they gave to my previous donor as well. Just getting that gift and honouring the liver transplant, so now my liver gets to live longer, too. It’s just this ongoing effect of that donor honouring my other donor’s family. Everyone is helping to keep us alive.”
Since her kidney transplant, Hehn has returned to her job as Director of Marketing & Design at Lumeca Health.
“I always say the medical stuff, you can get through,” she said. “The mental game is the big one. But mentally I’ve been feeling great. I was happy my work was receptive to whenever I wanted to come back.”
Having gone through liver failure and then kidney failure, Hehn said she couldn’t remember what feeling normal felt like.
Fortunately, she does now.
“I remember in the first two months after my transplant almost living in a state of euphoria because you literally don’t know how good you feel until you feel that,” said Hehn. “There were times I almost didn’t want to go to bed because I was so happy to be alive and feel good. I could just sit on the couch and feel good. That’s a gift. I just feel great. My goal is to get my friend out of dialysis and hope to spread the word and maybe they can do their own interviews in a couple of years and tell how they were inspired.”
This year’s “Together Strong” theme for Green Shirt Day encourages Canadians to unite online and to bring enthusiasm and green shirts to online platforms.
Those wondering how to participate can visit greenshirtday.ca/be-inspired.
For her part, Hehn is ready to rock her green shirt and is also getting some custom-made nails as well.
“I’ve never done that before, so I thought I would take it up a notch,” she said.
But green will be the colour of the day for Hehn.
“I’ll be wearing mine on my video calls at work,” she said.
To register as an organ and tissue donor visit https://greenshirtday.ca/register/
To order an official Green Shirt Day shirt, go to https://greenshirtday2021.go.customprintcenter.ca/.
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