Ten years ago, Jonathon Talbot was a kinesiology major and member of the downhill biking team at York University. During March Break, the 22-year-old left his home in a friend’s car to go to a party.
The next time his family saw him, he was in the critical care unit at Sunnybrook.
“They told us that Jonathon had suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. The injury was severe, and it was unlikely that he would recover,” says his mother, Heather.
That’s when an organ and tissue donation coordinator from the Trillium Gift of Life Network approached the Talbot family, asking if Jonathon had signed his donor card. His sister Emily said that he had, and that they had discussed the possibility of organ donation together.
“My first instinct was to say no,” says Heather. “My children and I are Jewish, and I wasn’t sure it would be possible to do this in a way that honoured our faith.”
However, after consulting with a rabbi and learning that organ donation was allowed because it would save someone else’s life, Heather felt confident that donating Jonathon’s organs and tissues was the right decision.
“It was my way to honour Jonathon’s memory. His organs helped four other people live,” says Heather.
In the decade since Jonathon’s passing, Heather and her husband Terry have become active in the organ donation community, participating in causes like the Canadian Transplant Games and hosting an annual table tennis fundraising tournament.
Heather has also spoken at synagogues and the National Council of Jewish Women, spreading the word that organ donation is an option for members of her faith. Now volunteering as a patient partner at Sunnybrook, her latest project is creating a memorial garden at the hospital dedicated to organ donors, which is set to come to reality this spring.
“If we hadn’t consented to donating, we would have missed this gift Jonathon gave us – a life enriched with purpose. Being a part of the organ donation community has also helped with grief,” says Heather.
Heather says she also took comfort in receiving cards and letters from some of the people who received Jonathon’s organs.
“One gentleman wrote that because of the organ he received, he lived to meet first grandchild. It means Jonathon didn’t die in vain.”
April is BeADonor Month. To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit https://beadonor.ca/sunnybrook.