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
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