Jess did not see her dream realized

Now that our federal lawmakers have been elected, I urge them and those B.C. hopefuls campaigning for the soon-expected provincial vote to unite behind my late granddaughter’s crusading mission to make human-organ transplants a legislated reality as common as virtually any normal daily hospital surgery.

Now that our federal lawmakers have been elected, I urge them and those B.C. hopefuls campaigning for the soon-expected provincial vote to unite behind my late granddaughter’s crusading mission to make human-organ transplants a legislated reality as common as virtually any normal daily hospital surgery.

Sorrowfully, grandpa Wally’s beloved Jess, reduced  to just 88 pounds, breathed her last April 13 in Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital, where she been awaiting a heart transplant since September, 2009. Ironically, Jess’s suddenly tragic departure 25 days short of  her twentieth birthday came exactly two years to the day since she contracted  a rare virus that landed her in Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital and ignited our courageous angel’s never-flagging fight for life. Transferred five months later to the Royal Vic, Jess’s home for more than 18 months until her death six days after she had been felled  by a massive stroke.

It’s heartbreaking knowing that from Day 1 of  her agonizing wait  Jess had crusaded among nurses, medical staff, and patients and won much support for her proposal: eliminating the option of  an organ-donor card, and stipulating the organs of  any deceased Canadian anywhere in Canada become immediately available upon death for transplant to any Canadian awaiting transplant of one or more specific organs to  sustain life.  Instead of  the current donor cards, those Canadian adults wishing NOT to make their organs available upon death, would be obliged to sign a form or card indicating so. Her dream was that all provinces would enact such legislation since health-care is a provincial responsibility, thereby producing uniformity across Canada on this vitally critical life-or-death concern.

Would  help tremendously, as well, if  those with legal wills or immediate family members acting on their behalf  in the will process documented  the wishes of  the deceased on transplant or non-transplant of  his or her organs.  In  cases of requested cremation, organs could be harvested beforehand.  I soon will update mine to state that one or more, and, if  possible and necessary, all  my bodily organs be made available for transplant prior to cremation.

Jess’s crusading torch is now being shared by her mother, Charlotte Roy, of  Montreal, and  grandpa Wally. As Char vowed, she would continue championing Jess’s cause, doing all and whatever necessary to make it a reality. Likewise, grandpa Wally. Speaking from the audience at a health-care forum April 23 sponsored by Kris Stewart, a nurse and the defeated Liberal Kelowna-Lake Country candidate, I related Jess’s story to the panellists. Later, Stewart said she had been touched by Jess’s story and, moreover, agreed action surely is  needed on Canada’s pathetic record of  organ donations.

Imagine how many countless thousands of  lives could be spared not only in Canada, but other nations patterning laws after Jess’s recommendation! Imagine the countless thousands whose lives might have been saved in the past with such laws. Yet, if  Jess-spirited legislation were to preserve but one life, it would have been infinitely worth it!. So, it’s unfathomable why anyone in the medical or any community would oppose it!

Consider that mom Char reports a continuing flood of supportive e-mail and Facebook messages for Jess’s cause from Canadians and Americans with a family member awaiting organ transplant — an outpouring sparked by Char’s  blitz of  interviews with radio, TV, and newspaper reporters following Jess’s funeral April 16.

By now, incidentally, B.C. Health Minister should have received a  longer, mailed version of  this media-directed plea.  Mr. de Jong, can voters expect you to voice our Jess`s proposal to the current legislative session? Would you heart-fully join us in battling for her crusading vision?

Reflect, Mr. de Jong, on Jess’s courageously persevering ordeal before her beautiful soul’s passage into God’s embrace. It all  began in early 2009 when Jess returned to hometown Winnipeg from Montreal, where the family had moved. Because of  differences in the Quebec and Manitoba education systems, she returned to the ‘Peg to rejoin her friends at St. James Collegiate, complete her senior-year studies and graduate. Just as Jess had fulfilled study requirements, the virus struck, taking her to St. Boniface Hospital with the fearful prospect Jess could die in a few days.

Yet, there our  lovely angel was smiling radiantly  at the grad ceremony June 27, 2009 — in a wheelchair, tubes connected to a machine for maintaining blood pressure, her  dream fulfilled, in grad cap and gown, diploma in hand, and  chatting joyously. The crowd loudly cheered and applauded from the calling of  Jess’s name to  receipt of  her treasured diploma.  Golden moments less than two months after being unable to move, see, speak, or breathe on her own — progress described as “remarkable” by doctors and nurses in attendance! Her hospitalization had included about a dozen operations, including four open-heart surgeries,  and  dialysis, with a ventilator enabling her to breathe.

With her passage, Canada and this world will never know how much honours grad Jess would have contributed to humanity. Not only had Jess had a successful career in Winnipeg’s Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps, her heart was set on going to university and becoming a nurse or doctor. So befitting an angel wholly others-centred in personality, outlook, and action!

Jess’s fighting and tireless spirit shone in her stated intention that, once recovered, she would dedicate her future education and efforts to improve Canada’s feeble  organ-donor record, raise public awareness of  the issue, and campaign to enact legislation on it.

Admittedly, as a Christian, I believe that upon the Second Coming of Jesus our buried bodies will be raised  to rejoin our Saviour. However, remember, as Christianity and many other faiths teach, we are eternal souls living in temporal bodies.

One day, we will all vacate them for our eternal home. So, why not put the organs of our bodily remains to potentially productive use salvaging others’ mortal lives?! Thus, our legacy and spirit lives on.

Moreover, as Pastor Tim Schroeder taught recently at Kelowna’s Trinity Baptist Church, some decisions are made at a higher-value level — far more from the heart than the head, and namely, beyond safety, self-fulfilment, or personal need.  That sure summarizes how Jess lived, and  she sure embodied the title of  U.S Presbyterian Pastor John Ortberg’s book, Love Beyond Reason.

In this connection, Jess’s spirit lives on  urging lawmakers, citizens, and families to  bring her crusading dream to reality. If we did grab her torch, I can just envision  angelic Jess so gorgeously smiling from her heavenly perch and cheering us marching for realization of  her goal legislatively across Canada. Let’s make hers a life-saving legacy!

Wally Dennison,


Kelowna Capital News