Twenty years ago, the unthinkable happened.

Greg Davis’ brother, Olympic swimmer Victor Davis, was struck by a car in Montreal.

The family rushed to the hospital, where the 26-year-old lay on life support for three days.

The world record-breaking Olympian — who won a gold and two silver medals at the 1984 Summer Olympics and a silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics — had discussed organ donation with his family a year earlier, said Greg Davis. “We knew what Victor wanted.”
The family made the decision to donate his organs.

It was difficult.

“I was looking at a man who was so full of life. And he was gone. But he gave five different people a new lease on life, including a grandfather who got 17 more years,” Davis said. “So he was a hero in a way.”

Accompanied by double-lung transplant recipient Grant Hagerty and supporter Terry Phillips, Davis stopped in Ottawa yesterday as a part of the eight-day Victor Davis Memorial Ride to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation.

Hagerty knows what a big difference organ donation can make.

The Waterloo resident, who suffered from sarcoid, an autoimmune disease, was given three months to live.

“In 2005, I was on oxygen 24 hours a day and made it into the transplant program,” said Hagerty. “In August 2006, I was living on death’s doorstep.”

The double-lung transplant saved his life, he said. Now 54, Hagerty lives a full life. An active volunteer, he teaches kids to ski, speaks on behalf of Gift of Life and fundraises for university athletics.

In Canada, there are 1,750 names on the waiting list for a transplant, with one person dying each day in Canada, Hagerty said.

A donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and up to 75 through tissue donation.