Sask. man starts organ donor foundation in honour of late wife

Organ donation has affected Clarence Pilon's family. That's why he started the Karen Pilon Organ Donor Awareness Foundation.

His wife Karen died in 2014 while waiting for a double lung transplant, but her choice to donate her organs gave the gift of life to four other people.

Now he's sharing her story and the success stories of others to raise awareness for organ donation all year round.

In Canada, donors and recipients are not formally connected, but Pilon says he knows the people whose lives were saved by his wife's donation.

“I’ve heard of the people that have gotten my wife’s organs when she donated hers. Three are still living as far as I know and one has passed, but whether we meet them or not, we know the gift and the good we're doing by donating,” said Pilon.

12-year-old Keaton Dirks received a heart transplant in 2014 when he was four. He says it was a little scary.

"Definitely, but when you're four, you really don't understand what's going on. So definitely there was probably some fear."

His father Dana explains it was one of the fastest turnarounds from diagnosis to transplant.

“He was in extremely rough shape, and thankfully for us it actually wasn’t that long,” said Dirks. “We were pretty much to the day, six months from when he was diagnosed to when we got the call for the transplant.”

While there were complications, Keaton is living a typical life for a 12-year-old boy: taking boxing lessons, playing goalie in lacrosse and his current favourite sport, basketball.

SHA donor program coordinator Jaime Robin-Partyka says one donor can save the lives of up to eight people. In 2021, there were 24 organ donors in Saskatchewan who, through the donation of their organs, gave the gift of life to 60 others.

It’s something that she continues to be humbled by.

“During this great time of grief and shock and tragedy, that they've looked outside of their own needs and thought of others is the most unselfish thing that we're just so honoured to be in the presence of,” said Robin-Partyka.

“And when they say yes, it’s just an absolutely wonderful gift.”

Pilon says he will continue to raise awareness and encourage others to sign up to be organ donors.

“Anybody interested in being an organ donor, go online, do the right thing. You can’t take them with you, so why not give them away?”