Sunday, March 24, 2013


David receiving a bronze medal at the
2012 Canadian Transplant Games

Back at the start of the summer, I attended a fundraiser for the Canadian Transplant Games. I’m pretty shy at social events and I hardly know anyone there (and those I did know were really busy organizing the event). I did my usual Lauren trick of finding a good people watching spot and leaned against a wall, nursing a beer. I noticed one guy almost right away. It was his hat. It was a simple ball cap, but the front had October 20, 2008 on it, and something about lungs. October 20 is my birthday, hence why the date stood out for me (although the year was slightly off  -  ha!).

Perhaps he saw me reading his hat or thought I looked like I needed someone to talk to so he came over. His name was David and he had indeed received a double lung transplant, on my birthday, in 2008. He was around my age, maybe a bit older (I've lost the ability to guess these things). He told me about his life before he got sick, what caused him to need a transplant (pulmonary fibrosis -I had to Google it as I had never heard of it) and what life was like since his transplant. He was a little gruff and seemed a little grumpy (and others later told warned me he could be negative at times or at least that had been their experience. But I never saw that – when I spoke to him, he was always an optimist. He had been through a lot over the past number of years and he was grateful for his lungs and that fact that he had more time with his wife and his young son. A lot had changed for him (he had once had his own business for example) and although he was living a very different life, he was quietly and profoundly thrilled to have the second chance.

Over the course of the Canadian Transplant Games I got to know him better. I learned that yes, he could be a bit gruff, but he was also good natured, funny and sympathetic. He loved his family so deeply and talked about his son whenever he had the chance. We connected on social media -  first Facebook and then I saw him learn and embrace Twitter, using it to promote organ donation. It’s funny how you really can get to know someone over social media, even if you have only met them in person once or twice. Many of us involved in the Transplant Games have formed great friendships after the games using these channels, I count David as one of mine. David even went as far as sponsoring me in the Kidney March last year to show his support which meant a lot to me.

David had hip replacement surgery about six weeks ago. A negative side effects of anti-rejection medication is a condition called avascular necrosis, which seriously diminishes blood supply to the hips. While otherwise healthy, some transplant patients end up needing surgery to fix this and similar issues (I am not sure if this is why he needed a hip but I do know it is common). David's surgery, by all accounts, went really well, but somewhere in the recovery process days later, something went wrong with one of the after treatments. He fought hard for weeks to stay with his family but in the end he lost the fight. David died Thursday.

I’m sad. I’m sad for David because he already had struggled so much and had come out the other end okay, only to be broadsided by something else. This wasn't an infection or the lungs rejecting…from what I was told it was a pretty rare complication unrelated to being a transplant recipient. I am sad for his wife and his mother and everyone else in his life. I’m especially sad for his son. Every kid needs their dad and he’s not going to have his for the better part of his childhood.

I’m sad for all the transplant friends he made too. I know for a lot of recipients, they are all too aware of how fragile life is and how quickly things can change. David’s death  probably hit closer to home for them than most. I hate seeing some of our mutual transplant friends go through that fear and worry that something might happen to them. Even though David’s situation wasn't necessarily directly linked to having a transplant, I can see where it would be making other recipients look over their shoulders a bit more.

It doesn't seem right that this happened. I’m going through pictures taken at the games and it just doesn't make sense to me. I fully expected to see him at other events (link the upcoming Transplant Trot) and that he’d be back posting on Facebook soon. I didn't know him well, but I knew him well enough to know that he and his family deserved more time together.