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Tragedy leads to second chance at life, two families forever bonded

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Two-year-old Ella Crosset loved to dance and celebrate Halloween. Her smile lit up a room, and brought joy to so many people.

But Ella passed away after a pool accident, and the pain of that loss was incomprehensible.

“Now I have to I have to plan for her a funeral instead of a birthday party, and that was it was really a lot,” Kristin Luckins recalled of the moments following her daughter’s death.

Through tragedy however, comes hope.

At the same time that Luckins was processing the loss of her daughter, Jamie Wallis, a woman she had known since they went to high school in Sarnia, Ont. had a son with a genetic disease that was progressively getting worse.

“The first year-and-a-half of his life was rough,” explained Wallis. “After that, we went through the process of going to SickKids and getting our diagnosis, getting the genetic testing, figuring out what was wrong with him, and what that meant for his path forward. Ultimately, he ended up going septic in February of 2019 and he lost his entire small intestine and part of his large intestine as well.”

Young Owen had been on the transplant list for over three years, and Luckins knew this — and through her grief she took action.

“For some reason I went up to the Trillium lady and I just said, ‘Can you look up on Wallis?’ I know he's on the list. And if you can see if maybe Ella is a match for him, then maybe something good can come out of it,” she said.

At this point Owen was having nutrients delivered directly into his heart through a central line, tubes running in and out of his body to sustain his life. Ella donated four of her organs to Owen, who now has a chance at a much improved life.

“We're just six months now post-transplant, and he's about to have his ostomy reversed and he's about to have his central line taken out. Those are two very, very, very big milestones in the transplant life, in his life, like this six-year-old that has been sick his whole life is about to be put back together,” Wallis said.

“I can see him grow,” Luckins said through tears. “And I know that that my baby girl did that. So that helps me a lot to get through her not being here anymore.”

On what would have been Ella’s third birthday, Kristin held a celebration of life. Owen was released from hospital in Toronto the same day, and they were able to make the drive to Sarnia in time to be there.

“That meant a lot because part of Ella was able to be there,” Luckins recounted of the Oct. 21 meeting. “So we have a really good relationship, and I'm so grateful for that because I think that's part of what I need to get through. This is now I know and I can see him thrive.”

Meanwhile Wallis said the two shared so many interests.

“They are kindred spirits. They are, they were always bonded. We all were always bonded. For Owen to be able to be there and for them to see, you know, the impact she had directly on this little boy who's running around causing mayhem, running on the stage and playing with the cotton candy machine and like he's got part of her,” she said.

Ella also donated her heart to another boy, and one person can change the life of up to eight people through organ donation, and countless more through tissue donation.

Bluewater Health was just awarded two honours in how they approach potential donors and had a 100 per cent rate last year.

Dr. Glenna Cuccarolo from Bluewater Health pleads with people to sign up for organ donation.

“It ensures that your wishes are taken into account at that time. And it also makes it a much more peaceful decision because the family knows that they're speaking your own personal wishes rather than trying to guess them at the time of a tragedy,” she said.

To be an organ donor, you can learn more on the Be a Donor website

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