Not All Superheroes Wear Capes
Brandon Thomsen was just 16 years old when he passed away and became an organ and tissue donor. His mom, Becky Bjerklie, shares how she and her family carry on Brandon’s legacy in their hometown of Bismarck, ND – and beyond!
In June of 2019, my sixteen-year-old son Brandon and I were in a drive-thru getting food. I had asked him to grab my debit card for me out of my wallet. While doing this, he also took out my license to look at it. Brandon was studying to take his driver’s permit test and was excited about it all. While looking at my license, he saw that it said DONOR and asked what it meant. I explained to him that if something were to ever happen to me, that I would want to help other people by donating my organs. Without skipping a beat, he said ” I want to add that to mine too.”
We never could have imagined how soon we were going to have to honor that decision. On June 13, 2019, Brandon suffered a severe asthma attack that caused him to stop breathing. Six days later, on June 19, 2019, he passed away with his family surrounding him with all the love we could give. He was able to donate his organs and tissue saving several lives, just the way he had wanted.
A year later I became a LifeSource Ambassador to bring awareness to my community and to honor Brandon and his decision. It has been such a wonderful thing for my family and I to do together and has helped us through the healing process.
Whenever I have an idea on how to bring awareness, my family is right there to help with whatever needs to be done. We have created an annual vendor and craft show where people can shop local businesses while our main tent is for LifeSource. At this booth we are there to educate everyone on organ, eye and tissue donation, get them registered as donors, and raise money that gets donated back to LifeSource. It has turned into a large event that our community loves coming out for.
In addition, this last 4th of July (2021) we decided to create a float for our local parade. This is a very large event bringing in an audience of more than 10,000 people. Each year the parade committee comes up with a theme for that year’s parade. This year the theme was “Salute those who serve our community.” I began sketching ideas on a notepad, and with help from family we came up with something that was not only personal to us, but also something that we thought spectators would really love: ”Not all superheroes wear capes.” This saying is very special to our family. Batman was always Brandon’s favorite superhero. When he was in the hospital, one of his nurses gave him the nickname BranMan since he was becoming a superhero by donating his organs. We felt this saying was true for all of the paramedics, police, firefighters, doctors and nurses that not only were there for us and Brandon, but for everyone that they help on a daily basis. They are all superheroes in our eyes and wanted to honor all of them. My mom and dad helped make the signs for each department we wanted to thank, while my husband Chis built our big 6’x6′ wood Donate Life sign. When it came time to decorate, the rest of my family was there with their Donate Life shirts on, ready to complete our vision. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
My number one mission has been to talk with parents about the importance of talking with their kids about what organ donations means. Had I not had that discussion with Brandon, I honestly don’t think I could have made the decision to have him become a donor. I tell everyone that having the discussion with your family is a gift of peace that you are giving them during one of the worst times that they will go through. It’s a gift that we can all give and should. I hope we are making Brandon proud.