Organ and tissue donation helps many

Royal Canadian Legion AB-NWT Command District 8 Commander Ted Latimer speaks to Sylvia Flannigan before her presentation last weekend. Ted’s first wife had an extra 11 years to live because of a transplant, a story he shared with Sylvia and the attendees. – Lucie Roy Photo

By Lucie Roy

Morinville – Morinville resident Sylvia Flannigan’s teenage son Lee Flannigan-McMaster lost his life on Apr. 27 2009 at the age of 17. Flannigan and her husband Andy McMaster decided to have his tissues donated. The day before her son would have been 20 years of age, Flannigan bravely spoke of the experience at the Royal Canadian Legion AB-NWT Command District 8 Rally in Norwood.

Flannigan said several people were helped with eye and vision restoring surgeries as a result of the tissue donation. A woman in her 60s and one in her 80s received cornea transplants. Additionally, two people in their 50s and a three-year-old boy each received scleral transplant tissue, and several people ranging from a two-year old boy to young men and women in their 20s and 30s all received gifts of life from the death of Flannigan’s son.

In total, 17 people were directly affected in life-changing ways by the decision to donate. Flannigan still gets calls to this day of other people her son Lee helped and it gives her comfort to know he is a hero in her eyes. The HERO spells out Healed, Enhanced, and Restored the lives of Others.

Erik Williams, Awareness Educator and Program Support Coordinator Comprehensive Tissue Centre of Alberta Health Services, said one multi-organ and tissue donor could potentially benefit more than 80 people. Williams gave a 30-minute presentation that covered the basic facts on organ and tissue donations. The transplantable organs – heart, lungs, liver, kidney pancreas and small bowel were discussed and how many people it can help as well as the transplantable tissues, including the heart valves, eyes, skin, bone and tendons. Williams explained there is no age limit for organ donation but tissue donation is limited to the age of 80. The oldest organ donor last year was 89.With organ donors the time frame from consent to operating room is approximately 8 to 16 hours.

Williams said in 2011 there were more than 4,500 people on the organ transplant waiting list across Canada. Additionally, an estimated 3,200 people waiting for a corneal transplant in Canada; patients may wait up to five years in this region for a transplant. Approximately 450 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant on the Alberta Health Services Edmonton waiting list alone.

Williams said it is important to discuss your wishes about organ donation with your family. For more information about organ and tissue donation in Alberta visit

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  1. Thanks so much for the article Lucie. This is such an important subject yet few want to talk about it. The potential to change lives is huge but people have to first have that conversation with their family and sign their cards. When I think of the little 2 year old boy who was burned and was helped by Lee’s skin donation, it really brings joy to my heart that Lee was able to bring such healing to someone so small and innocent. Thanks as well for helping us to spread the story, it means so much!!!


  2. I have had my mother die while waiting for a transplant and other family members successfully receive transplant. The quality change and life extension that this can offer is amazing.

    I thank anyone who signs their donor card.


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