Eighteen-year-old Laura Hillier was a recent high school graduate from Ontario, Canada. The teen passed away on January 20 after a long battle with cancer, so classmates signed her casket like a yearbook as a beautiful tribute to her.
"The messages we wrote were in a way our last goodbye to Laura, as not many of us had the chance to see her in her final weeks due to the severity of her immune system," Rebecca Sekine, a close friend of Hillier, commented on Facebook.
Despite the fact Hillier had found a donor match, she was on a waitlist due to a shortage of hospital beds and isolation room space. CTV News reports that while she waited, she had to endure unnecessary chemotherapy treatments to keep her body in remission, and sadly, did not survive the wait time.
While the casket is a beautiful tribute to Hillier, her parents are making sure her story lives on by spreading a very important message about ending "deadly wait times."
The period where patients must continue with their treatments until an organ, hospital space, or doctor becomes available is sometimes referred to as a "deadly wait time" Often, this period can take months or even years. The Gift of Life Donor Program reports the average wait time for someone to receive a kidney transplant, for example, is five years in the United States.
Dr. Ralph Meyer, a regional vice president for Cancer Care Ontario, told CTV News in an interview that one of the reasons people like Hillier have to wait so long, is because there is a growing pool of patients found eligible for stem cell transplants thanks to advances in technology.
The courageous teen made her mom promise she'd continue fighting to make sure what happened to her wouldn't happen to anyone else.
Though their beloved daughter is gone, Hillier's parents are continuing to fight against the "deadly wait times" for those who need a transplant.
In addition to raising more than $20,000, the family asked people, in lieu of flowers, to donate to their daughter's cause — to "improve the stem cell transplant situation in Ontario,"
Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins is also working with Hillier's family to figure out a solution to the problem Laura faced. So far, as a result of the two working together, one hospital received enough funding for 60 stem cell transplants, whereas the previous year they could only perform 47. The hospital hopes to increase that number to 70 next year. That same hospital also received money to hire an additional doctor and has plans to increase the number of beds.
Though these things didn't come in time to help her daughter, Hillier's mother is hopeful the positive changes will ensure no one else will have to endure long wait times.