'She was an incredible human': Cape Breton family remembers deceased organ donation advocate
HALIFAX -- It's been over one week since 30-year-old Jessica Tighe, a Cape Breton, N.S. woman, died of a rare form of liver disease. While the long-time presumed organ donor consent advocate's time was short, her family says she had a lasting impact on many.
"She was an incredible human," says Tighe's mother, Patricia Leyte. "She touched a lot of lives."
When she was twenty-years-old, Tighe was diagnosed with Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), which is described as a long-term progressive disease of the liver and gallbladder characterized by inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts.
Tighe was an advocate for organ donation after receiving her own life-saving transplant in 2011.
"Her biggest passion was to make sure people wouldn't have to go through what [she] Jessica went through in the last number of years," says Tighe's father, Doug Leyte. "She just wanted to be that ray of light, that hope."
Tighe made plenty of speeches and presentations to raise awareness about her disease.
Four days after Tighe's death on Jan. 14, Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in North America to enact presumed organ donor consent – with legislation having taken effect on Monday.
"She was so looking forward to 2021 being her year," says Patricia. "It was such exciting news for her that it was coming."
Patricia describes her daughter's disease as fast and furious; without a transplant, she wouldn't have been able to experience as many life opportunities as she did.
"Jessica got married a couple of years ago; my speech to everyone that was there started off with organ donation," says Doug. "It was all because of organ donation that we were there that day."
Tighe's organ donation also allowed for the family to welcome their first grandchild, Violet, who turned four-years-old a day after her mother passed away.
"Violet is our miracle baby," says Patricia. "Jessica never expected to be able to have a baby, and she did have that window of good health."
The family's focus now is on moving Tighe's legacy forward and ensuring no one dies while waiting for an organ, which in Nova Scotia can be over 100 people at any given time. However, donation rates have already increased in the province, which could mean shorter wait times.
Meanwhile, Tighe will be remembered by her family as just a simple person who tried every day to make someone else's life just a little better.