by Barbara Turnbull | The Star
Thomas Quinet has lost his battle for new organs.
The 14-year-old, who had been awaiting his second double-lung transplant at the Hospital for Sick Children, died Sunday night, just before 8 p.m.
Thomas, who was born with cystic fibrosis, was removed from life support after it was determined that he could no longer survive the trauma of a transplant, his father, Marc Quinet, told the Star Monday. The Ottawa teenager, whose story has been chronicled by the Starsince last year, had been unconscious and on a novalung for the last month.
The family asked that anything possible be used for transplant, so Thomas’ eyes were removed overnight. His parents will be notified by letter from Trillium Gift of Life Network as to what is done with their son’s eyes.
Though his family knew Thomas’ time was strictly limited, they didn’t think he was that close to death — his oxygenation and carbon dioxide levels had been very good the previous week, Quinet said.
Quinet said he went in to see Thomas at 6:30 Sunday morning — he always checked on him before the shift change at 7 a.m. He noticed Tom had more support — more pressure from the ventilator, more morphine and more frequent blood transfusions — but reasoned they’d had days like that before. He left the hospital for a short time.
Quinet and his wife Suzanne Camu were just finishing brunch with Camu’s visiting parents, niece and nephew, when they received a phone call asking them to be at the hospital in 30 minutes.
There, doctors delivered unexpected news. “It would be difficult to imagine that he would have survived a lung transplant surgery, with his liver presenting the way it did,” Quinet said they were told.
“It was a shock, because initially we thought they were going to tell us he needed more support than the novalung and that they were going to switch to . . . a more complete form of bypass for the heart, as well as the lungs,” Quinet said.
After answering all their questions, the meeting’s purpose became how to manage their son’s passing. They had the option to keep Thomas alive for as long as necessary to make preparations.
There was time for Quinet’s sister to fly in from Ottawa and Camu’s brother to drive in from Montreal. Camu’s parents, niece and nephew, who had left for Ottawa, turned around and spent the afternoon.
Just after 7:30 p.m., life support was removed. Gradually Thomas’ heart stopped and he died about 15 minutes later, Quinet said. “It was the longest 15 minutes of my life,” he said.
After Thomas was cleaned up, he was brought to his parents in a private room. “He looked just like a little boy,” Quinet said. “He looked serene, he looked good. We dressed him up in the private room that they gave us and he looked really good, and sharp.”
They made him comfortable with some of the stuffed animals that had been on his ICU bed with him. The staff assisted them with making handprints and plaster molds of his hands.
“We spent a couple of hours with Tom, we cuddled him,” Quinet said. “It just felt like he was sleeping beside us. He looked so beautiful.” It reminded them of some special times they shared as parents, watching over him when he was truly asleep, he said.
Their request to accompany him to the morgue was accommodated and they were heartened to discover that it was in a familiar hallway, where Thomas had performed his six-minute walking tests.
Thomas’ family intends to use their story to encourage people to join registries for organ donation.
The family is planning a ceremony in Ottawa on Saturday and will have a memorial in Toronto in the near future. They have asked that donations in Thomas’ memory be made to the David Foster Foundation and the Trillium Gift of Life Network.