The head of the organisation responsible for setting adrift a message in a bottle from an organ donation recipient was surprised and delighted to hear the bottle washed up on a Grand Cayman beach, thousands of miles from where it was thrown from a boat off the coast of France.
Olivier Coustere, founder and director of the French Transplant and Dialysis Sport Federation, known as Trans-Forme, which sent out the bottle, said: “It’s the first time that such a bottle is found so far from our coasts.”
In March this year, one day before the Cayman Islands government passed a law legalising organ and tissue donation and transplants locally, Patricia Wright found the sealed bottle with rolled-up papers inside as she was taking her weekly walk along the beach in South Sound.
The note inside was written by a heart transplant recipient. It stated that the bottle had been put overboard during an international 2,540-mile yacht race from the west coast of France to the Azores in 2011.
The note was in three languages. The English version read: “Eleven months ago, I could not walk more than 30 metres in one go. Today, thanks to the generosity of one unknown person who gave me a heart – I can pretend to the normal practice of a sport and think of a future.
Sincere thanks to him and his family as well as to all of you who took the decision to say ‘yes’ to organ transplant.”
The bottle also contained an application form for an organ donor card.
Mr. Coustere, who is a kidney recipient, said his group sends out bottles like these each year to spread the message of the importance of organ donations. This is the third bottle that has washed ashore and been found.
“We organise a sending [of bottles] every year. We organise the writing of the letters and we put them in the bottles and they are sent for us by skippers participating to a sailing race” from Les Sables d’Olonne in France to Madeira in Portugal and back or from Les Sables d’Olonne to Horta in the Azores and back, he said.
“The initial idea came in 2007 from Yves Chatelain, president of Les Bénévoles du Littoral Olonnois, an association of volunteers of Olonne’s seashore when the National Transplant and Dialysis Games were held at Les Sables d’Olonne in 2007.
Trans-Forme has coordinated the “Bottles to the Sea” event since then, with the local support of Gérard Mallochet, who is the new president of BDLO,” said Mr. Coustere.
He said the message that was in the bottle found in South Sound was written some years ago by a former member of Trans-forme who is a heart recipient. “We tried to get in touch with him but didn’t succeed so far,” Mr. Coustere said in an email to the Caymanian Compass.
“Since 2011, in order to limit the pollution of the sea, only five Class 40 skippers – who are the five winners of the pre-race event – are given before the official start of the race a bottle to drop [in]to the sea when they are around the Gulf of Gascogne,” Mr. Coustere said.
The first of the bottles to be found was discovered by a doctor in October 2009 on a beach of the Oleron Island in France, not far from the start of the race. A second bottle was found later by an English couple in the Azores.
“This is now the third bottle, which was dropped in 2011 and found on a beach of Cayman Islands in March 2013, and it is the first time that [one was found] so far from the race,” Mr. Coustere said. “This is a wonderful story.”