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Organ Donor Activism with Simon & Garfunkel

"Slow down. You move too fast..."

I am at Costco Kanata humming Simon & Garfunkel's 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) as the speeding shoppers blow past our Ottawa Gift of Life advocacy table.

Costco put us at the entrance for ten hours on a Monday to honour in a meaningful way Julie, an employee, who had died in her early 30s while on a waiting list for a new heart.

"No, not now," shouts one shopper, already 15 feet past me, looking at a super-sized television.

"Not interested...," another offers emphatically, with a shake of his head.

Does he know what we are selling?

"Maybe later...." another one says.

Maybe not!

If a shopper ever locks eyes with me or hesitates even for a second , they have my son Adam's picture in their hands.

Adam, 22, in his favorite red plaid shirt

"He saved four lives," I tell them. "A man has his heart. Three women have his kidneys and liver." Adam, 22, died after a seizure-related drowning; paramedics resuscitated him and brought him to a hospital for our precious 36-hour vigil.

The miracle we begged for was not to be but another magnificent miracle was in that Ottawa Hospital I-28 room that January, 2016 weekend, waiting our embrace. ("A Brave Heart", Chapter 17, Soar, Adam, Soar,

My quick elevator talk red lights a few. Even on this"Monday, Monday", a light goes on for some shoppers. They figure out that my son must have died. They offer condolences. Some glance at the Be a Donor table.

What are you selling?

There's Everest moments on my shift. An Iranian couple show me their bracelet which identifies a person as a willing donor in his country. He is happy to write down the web site after hearing how we in the province of Ontario now register.

Several take out their health cards to confirm the word, DONOR, is in capital letters on the back. It's THE certain way to know one is registered at least in this province. As in every volunteer shift, inevitably there's a few who had registered years ago signing driver licence applications surprised now NOT to see the DONOR word on their card. We get that fixed with a quick online registration.

There are organ recipients who share their own stories and gratitude. Flesh and blood make organ donation real! I share my shift with another deceased donor family member. Suzanne Rousson has the picture of her beautiful son, Sylvain, here too. After his death at 27, he would save five lives.

A few in their senior years joke with me that "you don't want my organs". That opens the door to sharing documented cases where organs from 80-year-old plus donors have functioned well for decades longer in their new recipients. When I had cited those examples at my Soar, Adam, Soar book reading in North Bay, ON., a nun already in her 80s in the front row gave us a fist pump!

Life after life.

Here at Costco, one poor woman waiting for a passport photo couldn't run from me. When I showed her my Adam and invited her to consider being an organ donor, she had a visceral, vomiting look of revulsion. Flashing in my memory was a teen girl at a Stouffville, ON high school reading who told me she wanted so much to register as an organ donor but her mother had vetoed her wishes.

"If you register as an organ donor, you will surely die," she told her daughter. Oh, dear, superstition trumping love, risking putting more healthy organs in the ground while people die waiting.

From my book tour and notes from readers, I sense that this memoir on Adam's gender journey home to the "boy in the mirror" might have other positive if unintended benefits for organ transplant advocacy, precisely because it is only a sub-plot in this love story I tell. First, readers get to know and like Adam, his positive spirit and crazy humour. Then, near the end, they read his surprising final act of love. I mistakenly thought only the one, later Chapter 17 in the book covered his organ donation, the chapter where I introduced John Dickhout, the "golden attitude", grateful heart recipient who had cleverly sleuthed his donor's identity. His heart-filled anonymous letter to Adam's family is in the book. So too is our reply. In that reply, he had picked up a few vague references ----our son's epilepsy, being a hockey goalie, the Celebration of Life. He knew the date of death for a Google search. Audiences at the readings revel at what he then did to reach us, a story he's told himself at five of the tour's 32 cities so far.

Rick Prashaw listens to John Dickhout's heart, his son Adam's heart

Indeed, there's traces of the donor story earlier in the book --- a hint of a conversation Adam had with his Mom when he opened his driver's licence application at 16, and my sister, Pati, a nurse, planting a seed when she drove me to the airport after I abruptly ended my holidays with her when we received the phone call about the drowning.