I am luckier than most people, even the ones who have won the lottery!
How many people can say they have received two double lung transplants?
My first transplant (March, 22nd 2002) and 8 years and a day earlier (March, 21st, 2010) I received my second transplant. What are the odds of receiving two gifts of life a mere day apart?
I always celebrate both special days. We call them “Lung Anniversaries”; however I tend to celebrate my first transplant in a more significant way. Without it, I would never have had the chance for a second transplant. Thirteen years ago my family and I were introduced to the world of organ transplantation.
I will always remember the night I received my first set of lungs. I had been admitted to Sick Kids Hospital and wasn’t doing well; in fact, I was in what they call “end stage CF” (cystic fibrosis). My lungs were so damaged my body was operating on a mere 10% lung function. All I did was sleep and eat. It wasn’t much of a life; in fact, it wasn’t life at all. My family and friends would visit, I would struggle to stay awake; all I wanted to do was sleep to help keep my dwindling energy level up.
The night of March 21st, 2002 there was a very bad winter storm. I wanted to see my family, but my sister Amy, my brother Matt and Dad couldn’t make it because of the weather. My Mom (was staying with me); my brother Chris and his girlfriend Kim (now wife) were visiting before the storm started. I still remember ordering a delicious salmon dinner in from a restaurant down the street. After we ate Chris and Kim headed back to Stouffville as the storm was intensifying.
Once they left my mom and I got ready for bed. My mom fell asleep on the couch and I in my hospital bed. Several hours later I heard someone talking outsides my hospital door. Thinking it was one of the nurses chatting with another I kind of ignored it and let my head sink back into my pillow. Suddenly the orange glow of the hallway light grew brighter as the door opened. It was like there was a large candle in the room. I lay there thinking the nurses were coming in, to do their rounds. I quickly learned this wasn’t the case.
Two figures walked in, I could see their silhouettes through the hospital curtains. They approached my mom who was sleeping on the couch. I could hear the soft voice of my transplant doctor Melinda Solomon, as she gently woke my Mom up, “Tanis we have lungs for Dan”!
I remember my mom saying, “Dan did you hear that”, I answered “Yes”.
Instantly my brain was in overload, what would the next few hours bring, was I strong enough to survive the operation, would I still be alive tomorrow?
The doctor and nurses left the room to give my mom and I some time to talk as well to call our family. I couldn’t stop the fear building up inside me. A voice in my head was shouting that I couldn’t do this and I wasn’t going to survive. My mind was feeding my body with fear.Struggling to get hold of my fear I told my mom I didn’t think I was strong enough to survive the transplant and we should let the doctors give the lungs to someone else. My mom looked me right into my eyes and said, “Dan you are going to be fine, I will be waiting for you on the other side of the operation”. It was her reassurance that gave me the strength to continue. There is a more in-depth story on my blog. https://darkandstormyblog.wordpress.com/my-story/
At this point in my life, I had learned to become fearless. Shutting down that part of my mind where fears were created was now essential to my survival. I was facing real fear, fear that I had never met before. My choices were to panic or accept the situation and try to stay calm.
Fear is contagious, it feeds our minds allowing our imagination to take over and play tricks to us. Fear left to grow distorts the situation clouding our minds with negativity. It is this fear that prevents people from fulfilling their dreams and goals. I looked through the fear that was building inside me that night and told myself I wanted to LIVE, I wanted to ENJOY LIFE, I wanted to SEE THE WORLD!
Without this operation I didn’t have a future, this was the closest chance I would ever have to continue living. I filled my fear with places I wanted to see; things I wanted to do, I wasn’t ready to give up. I became fearless allowing my life to become limitless as I believed in myself I knew I could do anything at that point.
When we were first looking into the possibilities of transplantation, the team of doctors and nurses told me they didn’t have a crystal ball, they couldn’t guarantee what would lay ahead for me. However, because of that team, I am alive thirteen years later!
In high school, I remember reading a textbook in science class about cystic fibrosis. My twin sister Amy was beside me as I pointed to the statistic that the average life expectancy of someone with cystic fibrosis was 16. I guess you could say I had turned a blind eye to that part of my disease. I always tried to live a normal (normal as possible) teenage life doing my treatments and taking my meds. In fact, I would impress my friends as to how many pills I could swallow at one time.
I knew we can’t live forever, as the band Cake so elegantly puts it, “As soon you’re born you start dying”. However at that age, you’re not thinking about death, you’re having fun with friends, making mistakes and learning from them.
A few weeks after reading that page from the textbook, I realized things could always be worse. This is when I came up with the hourglass theory. My theory is simple, at birth we are given an hourglass filled with sand, pebbles, some rocks as well a little hammer. It’s up to you to break down those pebbles and rocks into sand if you want to live longer. Even if it is challenging it is through your experiences that you’re making choices, creating memories, you’re living your life!
So I decided to live fearlessly. I could have just put the hammer down and let the top of that hourglass empty to the bottom. However, I chose to keep hammering away! Yes, I have had some bumps in the road that I have recovered from and still, am recovering from. In my journey, I have learned a lot about myself. Believing in myself has allowed me to be fearless, letting the world become limitless!