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Montreal teen who died of heart failure commemorated with CSL greenspace

In 2014, 19-year-old Joshua Ezekiel Alexander died of health complications related to a heart transplant he had as a baby. His community still remembers him fondly.

To commemorate Alexander, a park – which some in his Côte Saint-Luc neighborhood are already calling Joshua’s Park – will be officially named after him. Although he spent a long time in the children’s hospital or at home sick, Alexander always went to play in the park when he was well.

“That was very important to him [to get out there] because we let him do what he can do when he’s able,” said Alexander’s mother, Victoria Wignal.

“There wasn’t much he could do … so the moment he could do things, we didn’t hold him back because we knew we’d be back in the hospital. And if we go to the hospital, it will take a month.”

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said residents have been asked to name people they associate with the park, which is located at the corner of Emerald Ave. and Wavell Road.

The candidate must be “an outstanding person of historical and/or cultural significance” and Alexander’s name is “by far” the most requested, Brownstein said.

“It was very touching. It’s a very emotional feeling to know that there was one person in our community who made such a difference to people of all ages,” he said.

“The elected officials didn’t know him, but we met the parents and they are wonderful people. They are as pleased as we are that he will be remembered there forever and hopefully will remind others to enjoy life the way Joshua did.”

Victoria Wignal is grateful to her community for nominating her son to be commemorated by a park in the Côte Saint-Luc. (Matt D’Amours/CBC)

As a baby, Alexander was given the heart of a deceased three-year-old. His body rejected the organ and two valves ruptured throughout his life. Although his body couldn’t make protein, magnesium or iron – which required multiple injections a day and sometimes an oxygen tank – he still made time to play basketball with his friends in the park or to study with his teacher there.

“It was a very important part of his life when things were going well. We would give him as much fun as possible,” said Wignal.

“It was normal when he could go to the park because he had his friends who knew how to take care of him.”

Wignal said she felt very fortunate that her community had decided to commemorate her son. She hopes the park will not only celebrate the life of her son, but that of all the children who have died from health complications.

“If these kids and babies go there to play, they’re going to have a good time and we want them to be safe, we want them to live,” she said.

Brownstein said he hopes those who go to the newly renovated park will remember to enjoy every moment of their lives.

“Life isn’t about how long you live, it’s about how you live in the moment,” he said.

“That’s what Joshua did and we hope that everyone in the Côte Saint-Luc and around the world understands the importance of this message.”

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