Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Michael's Story

I was always kind of stubborn in a determined way. My symptoms had been progressing for years, but I just tried to ignore them. In time I was diagnosed with a genetic lung disease called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

One day I had to ask a roommate to drive me to emergency after several days of a progressive illness. While there I was diagnosed with pneumonia and my visit turned into a month-long stay. This bout of illness seriously compromised my lung function. Luckily, I was at the University of Alberta Hospital, one of the finest and busiest transplant centers in Canada. During my stay I was informed that I could be eligible for a double-lung transplant.

Shortly after leaving the hospital I registered for and completed the Breathe Easy Program. An excellent respiratory rehab program I highly recommend. Life was difficult but manageable as I was prescribed oxygen. On a good day I could walk around the block. On a bad day, getting dressed was a chore. Working was not an option and I would often question my quality of life. Eventually I started and completed the work-up at the U of A Hospital and was put on the transplant list in August 2010. The anxiety and second-guessing you go through is unimaginable, but I was told it could be two years so there was time to deal with it. I may have survived that long, but four months later I received the call.

The fear and apprehension I was feeling had been easy to cover up outwardly at least. Now it was gut-check time. I back-pedaled at first mumbling about having the flu and not being sure I qualified. Apparently that’s not uncommon and the transplant team anticipates those second thoughts. I managed to swallow the fear and agreed to go, thank goodness.

As it turned out, I was diagnosed with the H1N1 flu, which presented a challenge for the transplant team. I was told later that it was a first for anyone to be given a lung transplant while having the H1N1 influenza. As time was of the essence, the team decided to go ahead and started treatment with Tamiflu.

The operation was a success and I had received the greatest gift of all from someone I had never met. These days eating healthy, exercising and staying away from sick people is my new way of life.
Who knew that being able to walk to the store for milk or helping someone move would instill a sense of accomplishment. Certainly not me.  

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