Russel Stevenson surprised his wife Sylvie in 2018 by telling her he had registered as an organ donor. A few months later, the two spoke again about their decision after the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash. The crash claimed the lives of 16 people, including the young hockey player Logan Boulet who went on to donate his organs and inspired tens of thousands of Canadians to register as organ donors.
"We both looked at each other and were thankful to have signed our donor cards," recalls Sylvie. "To this day I always think of that crash and am thankful to be registered."
Sylvie and Russel
Three years later in summer 2021, Sylvie recalled these conversations when Russel passed away and had the opportunity to donate his organs. Because he had registered as an organ donor and spoken with Sylvie about it, Russel donated his liver, pancreas, lungs, and both kidneys.
Sylvie did not hesitate to support Russel's decision to be a donor. "His heart was bigger than he was," she says. "Russel was a kind, gentle and caring husband. He always made sure everyone around us was safe and happy and he wanted to take care of all of them."
Russel and Sylvie had moved in 2001 to Vernon, where the "sun always shines and the fish are always jumping." They lived an active life, sharing a passion for riding motorcycles, and loving the freedom and ability to travel on their bikes. Sylvie says she and Russel were also "failures" at fostering dogs, because they always ended up keeping them as their own pets.
Russel was 58 years old when he passed away, and Sylvie says the experience was the hardest thing she has ever done. "I still to this day wish it didn't happen and that he was home with me, safe and sound. But to give someone a second chance is the best gift he could ever give."
Despite how difficult it was to lose him, Sylvie says it gives her comfort to think about the people Russel helped. "As much as I was hurting, I think about the recipients and their reaction when they got that call that an organ was available," she recalls. "I wish them all the best with their second chance at life and wish for them to take advantage of Russel's gifts."
Sylvie thanks the health care team at Kelowna Hospital, who provided Russel excellent care:
"Words can never express how the team made me feel. I was given so much support, love, compassion and some tears, and their professionalism was outstanding."
She is grateful that Russel had the opportunity to donate, and her advice to the recipients of his organs: "Live the best life you can and do little things to make you and others happier. Knowing that Russ is still alive and living on in someone else is soothing for me. It gives me great pleasure to know that someone has a second chance."