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Sign of Life

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A GRISLY TEAM BUS CRASH IN HOCKEY COUNTRY DESTROYED LIVES, TORE FAMILIES APART AND WRECKED A COMMUNITY. BUT ONE PLAYER'S DEATH IS GIVING LIFE TO OTHERS ALL OVER

WHEN LOGAN BOULET turned 21 on March 2, he signed up to become an organ donor. His parents describe this as an easy choice for their only son, a fearsome defenseman for the Junior A Humboldt Broncos in Saskatchewan. After hockey, the kid who loved movies and Legos and collecting Fanta cans wanted to become a teacher, like Mom and Dad.

Boulet had been training with Ric Suggitt, a former national team rugby coach who put the young player through unusual workouts, like sprinting down BMX ramps. But then Suggitt died suddenly of a brain aneurysm, in June 2017, and when Boulet found out his mentor had been an organ donor, he decided he would become one too. Suggitt had meant that much to him. By signing his donor card, he knew there was a chance he could make that kind of impact on a stranger.

Five weeks later a bus carrying the Broncos to a playoff game collided with a tractor trailer in northern rural Saskatchewan. Sixteen people died and another 13 were injured; in the immediate aftermath of the crash, it wasn't clear which group Logan would eventually fall under.

At the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, where their son was on life support, Toby and Bernie Boulet wrote messages on hospital wristbands and affixed them up and down Logan's arms. They took turns listening to his heartbeat until finally he was taken off life support. In the end, doctors would say it was the strongest beating heart they'd ever seen donated.

Six people received Boulet's organs. Six lives, immediately changed—six men and women, with his liver and his lungs and his kidneys ... and that heart that beat so strongly. This fall the Boulets were told that nearly 200,000 people across Canada had signed up to become organ donors in the six months after the fatal accident. While it's impossible to say how many donors signed up because of the decision of one 21-year-old, it's safe to say that this surge is hardly a coincidence. The Logan Effect. That's what the phenomenon is being called.

Millions of dollars in donations have poured into Humboldt—but money can only do so much. Team board members have resigned. Billet families have moved on. An almost entirely new Broncos team now plays in front of a community that may never fully heal.

Inspiration, though? Logan Boulet provides that—to his family, to his friends, to his surviving teammates and to a community that meant so much to him. But that's only a small fraction of his impact. Think of the lives he saved simply by signing a card. Think of how many families he'll impact as new donors tell their friends, who tell their friends, denting, they hope, a very real organ crisis in a country with an abysmally low donation rate. Think of the boy who became a hero in his death and the pain of the family he left behind—and how one doesn't exist without the other.