On Sunday, BC Transplant Services held a ceremony for the organ donors who helped save lives.
A Victoria mother whose son donated five organs after passing away last year has decided she wants to hear his heartbeat one last time.
“I want to make sure the recipients are OK,” Colleen Riopel said through tears. “It’s so hard to express what this would mean to me, but I think in my mind I would be close to my son one more time. Especially the one who received his heart. I want to feel it beating one more time.”
In August 2017, 26-year-old Robert suffered a tonic-clonic seizure while at a friend’s house. He stopped breathing, and friends performed CPR as they called 9-1-1. By the time his brain got oxygen again, his mother Colleen Riopel said, “the damage was done.”
Robert kept having seizures, went into cardiac arrest and was in a medically-induced coma for five days as his condition deteriorated. When he passed away on Aug. 17, his parents were asked if Robert would donate his organs.
“Absolutely,” Riopel responded. “We know this is exactly what he would want. This is just the type of person he was — he would help anyone with anything. He was such a giving person. I think we made the right decision to donate.”
Now more than a year later, Riopel is turning to Facebook for help finding the five people who live with her son’s kidneys, lung, liver and heart.
Her post has been shared almost 100 times across North America and as far away as England this week.
“The more it can get out there, then hopefully one of the recipients will get in touch with me. If they’re not interested that’s fine and I respect their privacy. I just want to be given the chance,” Riopel said.
BC Transplant said relationships between donors and recipients can be emotional and unpredictable. The organization advises people seeking to connect with their donor or recipient through social media to use caution, as BC Transplant cannot confirm if they are a match.
BC Transplant operates under the Human Tissue Gift Act, which states the identity of a donor or recipient is confidential. However, families and patients can meet after one year if both have already requested contact anonymously with BC Transplant.
The organization said this is to make sure no one feels pressured into making a decision.
Riopel said she respects the privacy of the recipients but hopes to hear from them.
“I think if I met these people, I could be able to fully heal,” she said.
Riopel has not heard from any of the recipients yet, but whether or not she does, she is urging people to become organ donors.
“Before this, I wasn’t an organ donor. I went and got myself registered,” she said.
People interested in organ donation can find more information at www.transplant.bc.ca.