STARS helped turn a tragedy into good

The story of Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk

A Weyburn mother is deeply indebted to STARS for their actions in transporting her critically-injured daughter after she was involved in a train collision.

Sandra LaRose was heart-broken that she lost her daughter, Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk, but is thankful to STARS as their actions enabled her to have time with Kailynn before she died, and for Kailynn’s wishes to be an organ donor to become a reality. Sandra will be attending “An Evening with STARS”, a fundraiser supper to be held in Weyburn on Tuesday, April 9, and hopes she will be able to meet some of the personnel who helped with her daughter.

article continues below

Kailynn was driving her car on Aug. 16, 2018, to hang out with friends, and was at a rural crossing when she was hit by a freight train just outside of Weyburn. Kailynn was taken first to the Weyburn General Hospital, and then was taken by the STARS helicopter up to the Regina General.

Sandra had last talked to her daughter around 5 p.m. on that fateful day as Kailynn asked if she could hang out with some friends. Almost two hours later, she received a message through Facebook to call a number, and was put through to the RCMP who informed her that Kailynn had been in an accident, and was being taken by STARS up to Regina.

It wasn’t until later, while she was on her way up to Regina, that Sandra found out Kailynn’s car had been hit by a train at a crossing just southeast of the city.

Soon after she arrived at the Regina hospital, Kailynn and Sandra were then airlifted by the Saskatchewan Air Ambulance up to Saskatoon to the Royal University Hospital, after a pediatric intensive care team came down from Saskatoon to accompany Kailynn.

Kailynn was in a medically-induced coma, and remained in that state for about a week. On Aug. 21, “they told us if she came out of the coma, she wouldn’t have all her faculties. At 8:52 on Aug. 22, the day after her 17th birthday, she died,” said Sandra.

While she didn’t survive her injuries, doctors noted that some of her organs were still in good shape and could be used, and she had indicated on her driver’s licence she wanted to be an organ donor. She had been moved by the wishes of Humboldt Broncos player Logan Boulet in donating his organs, and made certain the donor sticker was affixed to indicate that she would also be an organ donor.

“They had matched her kidneys and liver, and her heart and lungs were matched, but the plane that was supposed to deliver them broke down,” said Sandra, who noted one kidney went to a highly-sensitized patient, the other kidney went to another patient, and a liver went to a third person, while her pancreas was sent to Edmonton for medical research.

The match with the sensitized patient was a rare one, as the patient was classed at a 95 mark, meaning 95 out of 100 kidneys cannot be matched with this patient. The kidney was ultimately rejected by this patient’s body, while the second recipient is now off dialysis and has fully recovered.

Sandra has since been in contact with the Boulet family, and has started a Green Shirt Day campaign in Weyburn to support organ donation, designating Sunday, April 7 to mark this day. The Weyburn Comprehensive School will mark it on Monday, April 8, in Kailynn’s memory.

“Even though she was in a coma, I still had that week with her. STARS not only gave three people a chance at living, but I got a chance to say goodbye,” said Sandra. “This outcome is not what I wanted, but in the end, what STARS gave me was time.”

Doctors told her had STARS not transported Kailynn, she likely would have died in the Weyburn hospital, and she wouldn’t have been considered a suitable candidate for organ donations.

In describing what her daughter was like, Sandra said, “She was a great kid. She would’ve given you the shirt off her back, and she did that at times too. … She was very positive, and she very much believed in building up other people, especially other girls. She would help anybody that needed it. If someone was depressed, she was there for them. She was just so full of love.”

This giving attitude was part of what led her to respond to the “Boulet Effect” and to determine to donate her organs if it was possible.

“Because it was Kailynn’s choice, it was her last ‘pay-it-forward’ act,” said Sandra, noting she could hardly wait until she turned 17 so she could donate blood.

To further carry on her memory and her legacy of being a giving person, Sandra has set up two $1,000 scholarships in her daughter’s name, the Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk Memorial Scholarship, to be presented at the Weyburn Comp. The scholarship will provide post-secondary help to someone who exhibits the same character traits in their lives that Kailynn did.

“Kailynn lived her life making choices and decisions to better the lives of others. She showed compassion, empathy, leadership and a love for everyone no matter who they were. Kailynn helped anyone who crossed her path that needed guidance, a shoulder to cry on, or just a simple compliment to boost their esteem,” states the criteria for the scholarship.

As this award will be character-based, a letter of reference will be needed for an applicant. “A letter of recommendation from a non-related community member and a school staff member must accompany the application. The letter must indicate and give reasons and examples of how the student has followed the same path as Kailynn in contributing to the betterment of another person or persons, animal or group.”

Sandra will present this scholarship at the next awards night held by the Comp.