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Canada The Logan Boulet effect: Death of player in Humboldt Broncos bus crash spurs a national movement

Bernadine and Toby Boulet, parents of the late Humboldt Broncos hockey player Logan Boulet, pose at their home in Lethbridge, Alta., on Dec.6, 2018.

The Canadian Press

Hours after coming across the horrific scene at the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, Bernadine and Toby Boulet still hadn’t seen their son Logan.

The couple from Lethbridge, Alta., was about 15 minutes behind the junior hockey team’s bus on April 6 when it and a semi truck collided in rural Saskatchewan. They stopped and searched through the wreckage, but they couldn’t find him.

They later found out the 21-year-old defenceman had been taken to closest hospital in Nipawin before being rushed to Saskatoon.

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“He was one of the most critically injured,” his mom said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

As the Boulets made the three-hour drive to Saskatoon, they knew their son had a spinal-cord injury and a severe head injury. They remember being thankful he was still alive when so many others on the bus hadn’t survived.

What happened next would change their lives forever and spur a national movement known as the Logan Boulet Effect.

When the Boulets arrived at the hospital, they were brought to a small room in the intensive care unit to hear details of their son’s injuries from doctors, a social worker and a nurse.

The spinal-cord injury was bad – probably paralysis from the waist down.

The brain injury was much worse.

“His prognosis was that he would not recover,” said his mother, her voice cracking. “Their goal was just to keep him comfortable until the time came when he would pass away.

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“I turned and looked at [a doctor] and said, ‘What about donating his organs? Is that a possibility?’ They just looked and said, ‘Is that something you want to do?’”

Her husband immediately piped up.

“Logan had directed me that he wanted to give his organs,” Toby Boulet said.

Less than a year earlier, he and Logan had a heart-to-heart talk while hanging out in the backyard one summer evening. His friend and his son’s fitness trainer, Ric Suggit, had died in June, 2017 and donated his organs.

“He told me that he was going to sign his donor card in honour of Ric,” his dad recalled. “I said, ‘That’s awesome, but no one’s going to want your organs when you’re 80 years old.’”

They both laughed, but Logan made it clear to his dad that he was serious.

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Toby Boulet hadn’t mentioned the conversation to his wife at the time – she would only hear about the father-son talk in the hospital.

They both knew what they needed to do.

“Logan is fit and he’s healthy and he’s young and he has organs that other people can use and he wasn’t going to need them any more,” Bernadine Boulet said.

Their decision was reinforced when one of their son’s friends showed up at the hospital and said Logan had signed his donor card on his 21st birthday – only five weeks earlier.

Logan Boulet’s brain stopped working just before noon on April 7. He was on a ventilator to help him breathe, but his heart kept beating on its own.

“It never stopped,” his dad said.

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His organs were harvested about 27 hours after he was admitted to the hospital.

“That was his number in hockey,” Toby Boulet said. “There were all these little signs.”

Six people across Canada benefited from his organs and the Logan Boulet Effect soon followed. Nearly 100,000 Canadians signed up to become organ donors after learning he had signed his own card.

Canadian Blood Services said there were 99,742 registrations in April alone – a number that only included provinces with online registration: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island.

Other provinces reported receiving a lot of phone calls from people wanting to register.

The rest of the 2018 statistics won’t be available until the new year, but the Boulets have heard countless stories about how their son prompted people to register as donors.

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“We continue to get messages every day,” Toby Boulet said, who noted he talked to a woman whose husband benefited from an organ donor. But she had only signed up after hearing his son’s story.

“He’s triggered people from all ages, all walks of life.”

The Boulets have also heard from parents of other children who died about wanting to be donors after hearing the hockey player’s story.

They said they will continue to honour their son’s legacy by giving back to the community.

“It’s been somewhat comforting, somewhat helpful,” Bernadine Boulet said. “We’d ideally like to go back eight months and change everything but we can’t.

“We have decided that one of our things that we are going to pull out of all this tragedy is we are going to work with organizations to promote organ donor registrations.”

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An event called Green Shirt Day – similar to Pink Shirt Day for anti-bullying or Orange Shirt Day for reconciliation – will be held on April 7, the anniversary of Logan’s death, to promote organ donation.

The Boulets hope to one day meet some of the people who benefited from their son’s organs, particularly the person who got his heart.

“That’s the one thing I would really like to know about,” his mom said.

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