I’m one of the blessed and grateful people who has been given the gift of life from donor lungs.
On October 21, 2012 I received a double lung transplant in Montreal after four years of being on supplemental oxygen and being on the transplant waiting list for 22 months. I still say it’s a miracle and am trying to repay that miraculous gift everyday by paying it forward and telling my story to help other people waiting for organ transplants.
It all started with me growing up with chronic asthma and really bad allergies and I was in and out of hospitals all my life. It’s amazing I’m still here, alive and kicking. My poor parents. They tried everything to help.
The doctor advised them to try wild meat because it had no antibiotics or hormones or preservatives. My dad didn’t mind because he loved hunting and I was starting to feel better and eating healthier. Heck, I was seemingly allergic to everything. I had eczema all over me and couldn’t eat any kind of nuts, seafood, fish, citrus fruits and strawberries and green peas or eggs. I blew up like a balloon so many times it was scary. I’m still allergic to cats and dogs, but I love dogs so much and would love to own one.
In the 1950s there were basically no drugs for asthma and when I had an attack it was very bad. It could last hours or days. The only relief for me came in 1972 with the Ventolin inhaler. Then I found a cousin who had an ointment with hydrocortisone in it for my skin and I was on my way to being somewhat kind of normal for me. I played sports and was more active and finished high school and went to the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. I wanted to be an artist and when I was drawing I was very calm and relaxed and my breathing was fine. Then the paint and chemical smells started getting to me though and my breathing was getting worse.
I tried working at a few different jobs with graphic art and silk screen work and photography, but my asthma just got worse again. I had to do something, so I moved from Hamilton to Ottawa in 1977 and got a federal government job in an office away from chemical smells and paint. I worked for 24 years for the government and found that second-hand smoke in the office was my biggest problem. I thought, which was very stupid on my part, that if I started smoking and joined them, that it would bother me less and actually that seemed to help for a while. I was then able to go out to smoke filled restaurants, bars, and malls and visit friends who smoked.
That was a very bad idea. As the years went by my breathing got even worse and I was on more inhalers and medicine to cope with my breathing difficulties. I tried everything to quit from trying the nicotine patch, gum and hypnosis. Finally after a two week stay in the hospital with pneumonia I was able to withdraw from cigarettes, but then they told me I had COPD. What?! I learned that it’s Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and there’s no reversal or treatment to get rid of it. My lungs were damaged and they would get increasingly worse. They literally told me to get my things in order… that I was going to die.
I was so bad that I had to go on long term disability with the Federal Government in 1996 and try to take care of myself. That’s when I heard of the Lung Association and that some people were going there for exercise and learning how to cope with COPD.
Tomorrow: Part 2: Learning how to cope with COPD