Two-time transplant recipient to play lead role in production about subject

By Tyler Marr
January 10, 2019 - 9:00am

The Tin Woman tells the story of a woman who receives a heart transplant and has the opportunity to meet the family whose loss made her second chance at life possible. 

Based on a true story, it weaves wit and sarcasm through bouts that promise to pull on the heartstrings, as Joy grapples with survivor's guilt and the family manages its loss.

The Battlefords Community Players will be presenting Sean Grennan’s work in February and March with a special touch — the role of Joy played by Cheryl Olson, a two-time heart transplant recipient who has, in a rare instance, met both of her donors. Through speaking with Grennan, it is believed she is the first actual transplant recipient to play the part.

“It is not my transplant story, but there are elements I relate to very much and reading through the script, there have been times where I have to stop and kind of compose myself a little bit as it kind of hits close to home,” she said.

Olson’s first heart transplant came in September 1999 when a simple cold turned deadly. She contracted a virus that destroyed her heart and left her in urgent need of a transplant. It was a scary, stressful time, aided by the fact she was married and had a three-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. 

She was able to meet the donor, a 21-year-old man from Adam, Alta., as the media were involved in both stories.

Eight years later, she was found to have chronic rejection and became in need of a second transplant. She thankfully found a donor and met her mother while waiting in the hospital for surgery.

By taking on the role, she hopes it cannot only make people laugh and cry, but spur a broader discussion around organ and tissue donation.

“It is not one of those topics that is really prevalent very much unless someone is faced with it,” she said.

The cast hopes to have a discussion with the audience after the play and urge them to ask questions about the subject matter.

While she believes awareness around the issue has grown in recent years — most recently gaining national attention after the death of Logan Boulet in the Humboldt Broncos bus collision last April. He signed his organ donation card just weeks before the collision. As a result, his organs helped change six lives.

Nonetheless, she expressed a desire to see the province gain haste on the subject and “pick up the ball a little bit more” on the idea of moving to an opt-out system over the current opt-in.

A preview show will run Feb. 26, and dinner theatre renditions will take place at the BCP Clubhouse on Feb. 28 and March 1, 2, 8 and 9.

 

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On Twitter: @JournoMarr

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