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(UPDATED 9:30 a.m., Aug. 28)
Out of tragedy comes inspiration

Orléans man killed in Yellowknife donates organs so that others may live
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Editor's note: This photo of Emerson Curran was provided to OrleansOnline by the Curran family who like it not because he looks so happy and strong .

By all accounts, Emerson Curran was an extremely loyal and generous young man who would do anything for those he loved.

On Monday, the 20-year-old Orléans man who died on Sunday due to injuries he suffered during an apparent altercation at a house party in Yellowknife, did something for several people he never knew -- he gave them the gift of life.

A year ago, Emerson was driving home with his mother after visiting Trent Univesristy when he told her about his philsophy of life and the hereafter. During the the conversation he expressed his wish to donate his organs should something ever happen to him. "Give it all." he told his mother.

After arriving at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton on Sunday, Micheal learned that his son was essentially brain dead with no chance of recovery. Later the same afternoon he met with a woman from the Alberta organ donation group called HOPE. Her name was Karen.

After Michael agreed to donate his son's organs, Karen started phoning organ donation groups and hospitals across Canada.

"She did this from a desk outside Em's room from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning without taking a break," Curran wrote in an e-mail to OrleanOnline..

At first, it seemed like only Emerson's heart would would be unsuitable. When he hit his head during the altercation in Yellowknife, it triggered a massive heart attack.

When he was transported to hospital, the medical staff used drugs and electronis stimuli to restart Emerson's heart which was then deemed strong enough for donation.

"It gave me such joy," wrote Curran.

Still more good news came when a recipient was found for Emerson's lungs who had no chance of survival without them. Recipients were also found for Emerson's heart, liver, both kidneys and his pancreas.

Giving the ultimate gift of life, even in death, is a fitting legacy for someone who was so loved by so many. In the 48 hours since his tragic passing, Facebook and Twitter have been a blaze with tributes to the former St. Peter High School student and football player.

The common sentiment is that Emerson was a loyal friend, thoughful, soft spoken, happy-go-lucky, kind, generous, and a gentle soul. No one, not a single person who knew him, can fathom how he ended up getting into an altercation that cost him his life.

After finishing his second year at the University of Ottawa this past spring, he went to Yellowknife at the suggestion of his cousin to work as a float plane dockhand for the summer. By all accounts, he loved the job and the experience. He was supposed to return to Ottawa on Sunday for his third year at Ottawa U, but on Friday night he went to a house party.

Little is known about what happened at the party. What is known is that someone called 9-1-1 shortly after midnight about an apparent fight and that someone had been seriously hurt. The RCMP responded to the call and found Curran in serious medical distress suffering from an apparent head injury. He was rushed to the local hospital and then airlifted to Edmonton on Saturday where he was kept in a medically induced coma. He eventually succumbed to his injuries on Sunday.

Emerson w as a successful student athlete at St. Peter High School and graduated in June 2011. He has three younger siblings: two brothers Liam and Graeme, and a sister Lauren. His parents are both pillars of the community.

Michael first started working at the Orleans Star in 1991 as a reporter. He was later named editor before leaving the Star in 1997 to help launch the Weekly Journal. He would go on to become the editor of the Ottawa Business Journal then publisher when the paper was purchased by Great River Media of which he is president.

Catrina Curran, Emerson's mother, has volunteered for countless community organizations, most notable the St. Peter School Council.

Both Michael and Catrina went to St. Matthew High School. Their loss is inconceivable.

Michael says the one thing that has helped them endure the hell of the past three days has been the knowledge that Emerson, or Em as he's known to his family and friends, will be able to help so many through organ donation.

"That part of this story is really the only thing sustaining me right now," wrote Curran.

Emerson's girlfriend Jillian Gummo, spoke to him just hours before he went to the party. He told her he loved her and that he could hardly wait to see her again when he returned back to Ottawa. On Sunday, she received another phone call informing her that he was in a medically induced coma in an Edmonton hospital.

"It was uncomprehendable. You never expect the person you talk to every single day to just be gone that quickly," a devastated Gummo told the CBC. "I know that he can feel how much everyone loved him and how heartbroken we are that he's gone."

Before leaving for Yellowknife, Emerson worked at the Farm Boy store on Innes Road where he was a model employee according to his store manager Rob Willis.

([He was) a smiling, happy, go-lucky guy. A lucky guy, a great young guy with a future, genuinely excited about his opportunity in Yellowknife and what he would learn and see from that experience," says Willis.

"We're all very upset here and very sad. … Our thoughts and prayers are definitely going to his family and his friends."

Michael Curran is expected to return home with his son's body in the next few days. Details of the funeral arrangements, or memorial service, have yet to be made public.

Emerson Curran in a recent picture with girlfriend Jillian Gummo.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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