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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

A family’s gift: The Bedards tell their inspiring story about the loss of Andrew Bedard (1995-2004) and how his organs have saved lives


Senior Adrian Bedard leans his head back and shifts in his seat, the fluorescent lights of the journalism room reflecting off his thick glasses. He tries to remember the day his brother Andrew died, and slowly, the memories come flooding back.

Adrian was 10 when Andrew, then age 8, abruptly passed away because of a hemorrhage in his brain.

It was the summer of 2004, and the day was nothing out of the ordinary.

“I woke up in the morning, like usual,” Adrian said. “[Andrew] and his friend were playing video games. It was Pokemon on the Gamecube … You know, it’s weird. I can still remember everything about the screen. I can remember exactly what the town [in the video game] looks like even though I haven’t seen the game in seven years.”

The words come out smoothly. Adrian talks as if he has told this story many times, but the sincerity is ever present.

“All of a sudden, he had a slight headache…” Adrian said. “I was sitting on the couch, watching. [He] walks 30 feet and flops down, has a seizure.

“He never wakes again.”

It turned out that Andrew had a deformed blood vessel, which is expensive to check for and extremely rare. It resulted in cerebral aneurysm, in which a vessel in the brain ruptures due to high arterial pressure. Symptoms include severe headaches and vision loss, and onset is often sudden.

“You have to understand,” Adrian said. “My brother had no prior medical issues, no nothing. [His death was] … very rare, and completely unexpected. All the proper surgeries were done, but he died just due to bad luck. I definitely thought he was going to live.”

Adrian's mom, Karlina Ott, frantically called 911. They were rushed to the emergency room, but Adrian went to a friend’s house to spend the night, worried, but hopeful that his brother would be fine.

“We stayed up until we passed out watching movies,” Adrian said. “ … the very next day my parents told me that he was going to die.”


From Andrew’s death: life

It was then that Adrian’s family decided to donate Andrew’s organs, since there was no chance of recovery. His organs saved lives and helped many, being especially rare due to Andrew’s B negative blood type. (Only 2 percent of people are B negative.)

One of these people was a 56-year-old attorney from Fresno named Kenneth Cavin. He has Hepatitis C; he was stuck with a needle while working in a hospital.

Cavin, who describes himself as an attorney who specializes in helping children, often does charitable work.

“People come to our house when they lose their job, or don't have a place to live, or when their children have no place to live,” Cavin said.

At the time of the liver transplant in 2004, Cavin and his wife, Deborah, had taken in three sisters when their drug addict mother abandoned them. She had been sentenced to 27 years in California's Patton State Mental Institution for taking a doctor and his office staff hostage with a stolen pistol.

However, Hepatitis C threatened to tear apart Cavin’s extended family and the help his clients relied upon.

Over 25 years, damage accumulated sufficiently to destroy his liver, and he was in the end stage cirrhosis, which is the scarring of the liver tissue. Eventually, the liver cannot filter blood and produce the enzymes that break down food into its constituent chemicals, and liver failure is usually fatal.

A gall bladder surgery suddenly triggered liver failure, and Cavin was rushed to San Francisco, where he awaited a donor.

His situation seemed absolutely hopeless; Cavin had been on the donor list for seven years, and his wife was told that death was no more than three days away. There were few available donors because of his rare B negative blood type.

“He was so close to death, he said his last goodbyes before going into surgery, because he might have never woken up again,” Adrian said. “[He was] quite literally hours from death, and the next liver of proper type came in 17 days later. There is no question that my brother's liver saved his life.”

As the moment of crisis loomed, worried friends turned to prayer.

“I am not religious,” Cavin said. “But everyone I knew in Fresno and Clovis, California; hundreds, if not thousands of people prayed for me … Andrew Bedard saved my life.”

Cavin survived the ordeal and is doing well, according to Adrian’s mother, Karlina Ott. Ott is the AYSO Regional Commissioner (the Bedards are soccer fanatics) and a volunteer speaker for the California Transplant Network Donor.

According to Ott, Cavin’s new liver seems to be resistant to Hepatitis C. Although the average survival of a liver placed in someone who has Hepatitis C is 10 years, it has been seven and a half years, and Andrew's liver remains almost completely undamaged by the Hepatitis.

Since the transplant, Cavin and the Bedards have spent several holidays together, gone camping and spent a vacation in Hawaii.

“Gratitude does not describe what I feel for the Bedards,” Cavin said. “I frankly believe their son should have lived, and I should have died … [He] kept my family together.”

The list of people Andrew has helped goes on. A man and a woman each received a kidney. A 7-year-old girl received Andrew’s small intestine (“She could eat for the first time!” Adrian said). And two women each received a cornea and can see again.

“Every year thousands of people die because they can’t get organs,” Adrian said. “So many people don’t sign up because it sounds icky, but it’s really useful. It’s sad that so many people try to extend the life for a week or so and ruin the internal organs as the body decays.”


Coping with tragedy

The Bedards were shocked by their son’s sudden death. As a family, they attempted to find closure in each other and the community.

“Going through grief as a family was an amazing experience,” Ott said. “Everyone must walk their own path through grief, but we often talked about what we were each experiencing. The first month was a jumble of emotions. We felt like our family had shattered.”

Ott and her husband, Charlie Bedard, joined a counseling group with parents who had lost children, and Adrian with children who had lost siblings.

“It helped to talk to others who had similar experiences,” she said.

Friends arranged for a candlelight vigil at the hospital. Andrew was on a respirator so the family had time to say their farewells before doctors performed surgery and recovered the organs. That evening, more than 200 people lit candles for Andrew.

When they got home from the hospital, friends had cleaned their house. Families from the school brought food.

“In the depths of grief, it is often hard to eat and harder to plan anything,” Ott said.

Friends helped to organize a memorial service on Andrew's birthday, less than four weeks after he died. Saratoga Elementary (Andrew’s school) allowed them to use the assembly area. Gene's Market supplied most of the things that they needed to serve lunch after the service. Time Deli supplied trays of food.

The Bedards may have made great progress in adapting, but there will always be permanent scars. Ott says that she is not comforatble with the word “closure,” which implies finishing something.

“There is no closure, no ending to grief. There is acceptance and adaptation,” she said.


Andrew’s short, sweet life

Andrew, who would have been a junior this year if he had lived, was a “very happy and optimistic person” and a big fan of the San Jose Earthquakes, a local professional soccer team.

“When I think of him, I remember his joy,” Ott said. “Even when things upset him, he was never angry or sad for long. He loved animals and thought of becoming a veterinarian. He adored cheetahs and was dreaming of going to Africa to see them in the wild. He was kind and gentle, but also stood up for his friends.”

“The story that I tell most often is about his last fall season of soccer,” Ott said. “Andrew loved soccer and liked to play goalkeeper.”

Andrew’s team “tried very hard,” but did not score a goal until the season was almost over. Not surprisingly, they also did not win any of their games.

After an especially tough loss, Charlie, Andrew’s dad, asked Andrew how he was feeling.

Andrew replied, "I feel great. It doesn't matter what the score is, if you have a great attitude, you are a winner."

Two months after Andrew’s death, the next fall season started. Charlie and Ott talked about starting an award to honor Andrew’s attitude. Ott narrowed the focus to the Under-10 division, which was where Andrew would have been playing.

Ott said she noticed an overall improvement in positive ways to play the game.

“It seemed that the players and coaches started to be more aware of positive ways to play the game,” she said. “I think that Andrew would be proud.”

Andrew had also been a fan of Pat Onstad, a goal keeper for the San Jose Earthquakes. Andrew had always lined up to get autographs after the game.

“They had an away game,” Adrian said. “But even so [two wives of the players] came to the funeral because they knew him so well. [the “turnout from the community”] was awesome. Unless you’ve ever lost a family member, you’d have no clue what it feels like. It just felt good to have people around.”

Onstad dedicated the next game after Andrew’s death to Andrew's memory.

“We still keep in touch with some of them,” Ott said. “We have gotten to know so many nice people in the Earthquakes organization and the larger soccer community.”

In 2008, Soccer Silicon Valley, a supporter group for the Earthquakes, asked if they could name their community-service award after Andrew. Ott designed the award plaque and helps determine which Earthquakes player receives the award each year.


Looking back

Adrian is preparing to go to college; he applied to Cal Poly and is looking into aerospace engineering. But he will always remember his brother, who, to Adrian, will forever remain 8 years old.

“I definitely suffered some post traumatic stress,” he said. “I have days where I think of my brother and just have this terribly sad feeling. Sometimes it’s really hard to do homework and function.”

“What hurts a lot is when people say ‘my brother is so annoying, I just wished they’d die.’”

He grimaces at the thought.

“Trust me, death hurts more than anything they can do to you.”

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