Young Edmonton Oilers fan gives precious heart valve gift

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Young Edmonton Oiler fan gives precious heart valve gift
Karter Bourgeault, a six-year-old Edmonton Oilers fan who lost his battle with brain cancer, saved two babies by donating his heart valves. Quinn Ohler has more in Health Matters. – Apr 22, 2024

Six-year-old Karter Bourgeault captured the hearts of NHL fans while he battled an aggressive form of brain cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).

In the summer of 2023, three days shy of the anniversary of his diagnosis, Bourgeault took his last breath, with his parents by his side.

“There’s a huge void,” Karter’s mom, Nicole Fraser, said. “It’s your baby.”

Bourgeault was a huge Edmonton Oilers fan, he even had a custom Connor McDavid mask that he would wear for his radiation treatments.

“I honestly believe that between Oilers and school, it’s what kept him fighting,” Fraser said.

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After saying goodbye, the family made the difficult decision to donate Bourgeault’s tissues, specifically his heart valves.

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“He actually ended up saving two little babies,” Fraser said. “You’re going to be opening up your child and taking parts of your child, but you also know that you’re saving the family from having to go through what you’re going through.”

April 21-27, 2024, is recognized as National Organ and Tissue Awareness week.

“Not a lot of people know about tissue donation,” said Dr. Graeme Dowling, the medical director of the Comprehensive Tissue Centre in Edmonton.

Dowling said that the major difference between organ and tissue donation is that organ donations have to be transplanted right away. Tissues, like corneas, heart valves, skin and bone can be processed and stored for up to five years.

Heart valves are in high demand and Dowling said most of the heart valves processed in Edmonton are for children and babies, and they are not stored for long.

“Those are used in surgery for the very young… life-saving surgeries for those infants,” he said. “We process them and they’re literally out the door as soon as they are ready to go.

Bourgeault’s family said it’s exactly what their zest-for-life child would have wanted.

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“It’s extremely hard, but a part of them isn’t gone,” Fraser said. “Part of him is keeping somebody else alive and knowing that is huge.”

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