Organ donation honors deceased daughter
After enduring the pain of losing a child to cancer, Joe Marchand had the honor of giving the gift of life to another family.
In February 2021, Marchand and his wife Dawn learned through a Facebook post that a daycare student of their six-year-old twins, four-year-old Carson Hillier, needed a kidney transplant. Although they didn’t know Carson personally, as soon as the couple heard about the situation, without hesitation they knew they wanted to help.
Since Marchand was of the correct blood type, he underwent tests and it was confirmed that he was compatible. The surgery took place on January 21 and both donor and recipient are recovering well.
“Living through (the loss of a child) definitely changes your perspective as a parent and as a human being,” said Marchand, a registered organ donor. “Why should I wait until I die for someone to get my organs?”
On October 7, 2019, the couple from Windsor, Ontario lost Marchand’s daughter-in-law Dawn’s 12-year-old daughter Layla to rabdomiosarcoma, a rare type of cancer.
“The biggest motivation when my daughter-in-law passed away was for myself and how can I keep her legacy for me. Biologically, she’s not mine, but she and I really had a very strong bond,” Marchand said. “She wanted the best for everyone, and she wanted the best for the world. She was my great motivation in all of this. I think doing this honors his memory and his legacy.
It was a full year from when the family was diagnosed with Layla with cancer to when they lost her. The grief, Dawn says, has been unbearable at times, but in the darkness and light of grief, she tries to honor her daughter’s life by focusing on the light. Knowing that a little boy is recovering well, and that Layla’s light continues to shine through their family’s act of kindness, brings him great joy.
The family went beyond Marchand by donating a kidney. They also educate their twins’ classmates. The twins are in first grade at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Elementary School. Carson’s favorite color is green, which happens to be the color associated with organ donation awareness and his family members wore green to show their support on the day of the surgery.
When Dawn was made aware, she messaged their twins’ teacher, Sam Macri, asking for a similar show of support. Marci was immediately on board and approached Principal Anna Mancini who made it a school-wide initiative. On January 21, more than 90% of students showed up in green.
“We are a Catholic community, so we always try to support a worthy cause and we believe this is one,” Mancini said. “We are all one family here at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I’m sure those kids probably had worries or worries knowing their dad was going to have surgery. We just wanted to put them at ease so that the whole school would get involved… It was just a good opportunity to raise awareness for the cause of organ donation.
As a Catholic school, Mancini said it was important not only to raise awareness, but also to instill in students the importance of caring for others. The school has been involved in several initiatives, reaching out to marginalized groups and organizing fundraisers and awareness days for juvenile diabetes, juvenile arthritis and other medical issues that have affected students.
This month, Our Lady of Mount Carmel will organize a fundraiser for kidney health.
Dawn hopes that by educating students about organ donation at a young age, it will continue later in life.
“When you see other people going through things and promoting them in a positive way, it takes the fear away,” said Dawn, whose father is a Catholic deacon. “I think fear is mostly what keeps people from doing things. The more you can plead at any age, the more likely you are that someone will feel confident and safe stepping forward and saying, “Hey, I want to try doing this for someone else. ”