March 13th – Puerto Rico!

“What will we do if they can’t speak English?”

That was one of the many questions on Matt’s mind as we prepared to visit our missionary friends in Puerto Rico recently.  We assured him that we would be just fine as long as he brushed up on his Spanish lessons from middle school!!

Our friends and hosts in Puerto Rico. We played games together every night, which Matt thoroughly enjoyed!

We recently returned from an absolutely lovely time with our friends as we were blessed to spend a week ‘doing life’ with them.  Matt was thoroughly taken by their family, the weather, the food and the beauty of the land.  He was a little nervous leading up to our departure, as his quarterly appointment with his transplant team at U of M was just before we left.   His pulmonary function test score improved and his team said he was doing great…so off we went!


Our view for the week – we decided we could get used to this! Sunrises every morning, moon-rises in the evening….just beautiful!










Since we still hear about the after-effects of Hurricane Maria, we were not sure exactly what to expect when we left the airport in San Juan.  We saw plenty of signs of damage, but it appeared that life was going on pretty normally for many people.   One day we went to El Mango, a village southeast of San Juan, to deliver some ‘care package’ gifts to children at an orphanage.   They were still without power, but seemed to be coping.   Matt really enjoyed helping distribute gifts to the kids!   We then traveled to the coast near where the hurricane made landfall.   There the devastation was still very evident months after the event, with a lot of recovery work still going on.

Formerly a two story home in Punta Santiago, near where Hurricane Maria made landfall just south of where are friends live. They are still without power in this town – 7 months after the storm


Matt enjoyed everything about our time in Puerto Rico, but one of his highlights was clearly our time on the water.  Our friends have a large (to us) sailboat which we took out to Cayo Icacos for some time on the beach.   Matt was an excellent captain for our adventure!

“Captain Matt” piloted the sailboat to and from a deserted island where we enjoyed swimming in the Caribbean…we were all singing the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song!

This is the boat Matt captained. Our friends lived on this boat in the US and Puerto Rico for almost 3 years before settling into their current home.












We spent a lovely day in Old San Juan, enjoying the history and sights and tastes of the city!

Matt enjoying the sights at Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a historic fortress and part of Old San Juan.


Matt got LOTS of walking in during our time in Puerto Rico! Old San Juan was a real highlight for him.

Matt enjoying the ambiance at Casa Cortes ChocoBar…a restaurant in Old San Juan featuring chocolate in virtually everything on the menu! He wants to go back!












We stopped for a mid-morning snack at a very unique restaurant featuring CHOCOLATE!

Our friends are busy with many different ministries to adults and youth throughout the week – it was a real privilege to experience some of the things they have gotten started since arriving in PR.  Humbling and also motivating to see all they are doing!

It was obvious from our time with them that our friends have the gift of hospitality – something God will use in many ways as they continue their work.    They have a huge network of contacts and ministry colleagues in Puerto Rico and around the world, which provides opportunities for them to engage and connect with people in a manner many of us cannot.


As we prepared to leave for home, we looked out at the marina down the hill from our friends home.  During Hurricane Maria a number of boats in this very marina sank due to the intensity of the storm.  It does not take much looking to find people in our circles that are sinking in the midst of the storms of life.  Like ships in a storm – we are thankful that through faith in Christ, we have an anchor for our souls…

Hebrews 6:19 (NKJV)

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…

January 29th – Two Years of New Life

Anniversaries give us opportunities to reflect…

In some ways it is hard to believe it has already and only been two years since Matt’s double lung transplant.

  • already – because it seems like just yesterday that the phone rang, we packed our bags and headed to Ann Arbor for surgery
  • only – because Matt has made SO much progress and done so many things since he recovered!

Our thoughts naturally turn towards the family of Matt’s donor at this time.   As we did last year around this anniversary date, we sent them a letter letting them know how Matt was doing, sharing our heartfelt thanks and prayers for them during what must be an especially difficult time of year.  We hope to meet them someday so we can share with them in person.

Just before Christmas Matt had the honor of holding his new little nephew Tavish!  He turned two months old yesterday…growing fast and changing every day!   Matt can’t wait to see him again!

Matt enjoyed the Christmas and New Years holidays with family and friends.  He has had a few head colds over these past months, but overall continues to do really well.   He continues to get more fit by running on the treadmill, and is an awesome encourager to many people who are awaiting their own lung transplants.

Matt recently had the opportunity to be on the ‘other side’ of the patient/caretaker relationship. I (dad) recently had surgery for a total right hip replacement.   Matt fully passed the test…he is an excellent care taker!!!

Matt’s plans for this year include (but are not limited to!):

  • Lots of races!
  • Travel to Puerto Rico and the Great Lakes states
  • Attending professional and college sports events, including Detroit Red Wings, Cleveland Indians, and a Pro golf tournament!
  • Lots of time with family and friends

My friend Bill passed away at age 91 at the end of last year.   I had the privilege of sharing some thoughts when his family gathered recently to celebrate his life.  One of the things I talked about was the number of Bill’s days…and how in his life we saw the truth of the only Psalm written by Moses.

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Bill’s legacy to me and many was his gift of wisdom…sharing the right word at the right time in the right way.

So far, Matt’s days are 11,970…with 732 of those made possible by the amazing gift given by Matt’s donor and his family.   On this very special anniversary, we have so much to be thankful for…

November 21st – “I can’t keep up…!”

It has been many months since my last post on Matt’s Journey.  Every time I get ready to sit down and write, Matt is off doing something else!  I can’t keep up with him!

Here is a sample of what he has been up to since April:

  • Celebrated his 32nd birthday with a really fun ‘cooking contest’ party with over 20 of his friends.
  • Attended a number of car races
    • Flat Rock Speedway near Toledo, OH with the Mead family
    • Belle Isle in Detroit for his first ever Indy Car race (awesome!)
    • Michigan International Speedway for a NASCAR event with Adam and Robin
    • Whittemore, Kalamazoo, and Owosso Speedway’s for local short track races
  • Attended several college football games (Central Michigan, University of Michigan, University of Louisville) and one high school game (Matt’s alma mater – Dow High School)
  • Spent a week in Northern Michigan on vacation at the beach
  • Learned how to ride a bike (he has a new bike to show for it!)
  • Attended minor league baseball and hockey games
  • Volunteered all summer at senior living center helping with game activities
  • Twice-weekly pulmonary rehab sessions to continue to get stronger and more fit (it is working!)
  • Piloted his drone
  • Enjoyed several outdoor music concerts
  • Fishing on Derby Lake
  • Attended the county fair
  • Visited several lung transplant patients (friends of Matt) in the hospital following their surgeries
  • Rode in the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit
  • Multiple visits to see his Grandma.
  • Flew to NY to visit his Aunt Jacque and Uncle Joe (including yet another short track car race and an up close look at Niagara Falls!)
  • Weekend in Kentucky visiting brother Jeff and sister-in-law Kimi….and their soon to be born baby!
  • College basketball game in Ann Arbor

Whew….you get the idea!  Even though he is wearing us out, it is SO much fun to see him be able to enjoy doing so many things with absolutely no problem with strength or stamina.   His transplanted lungs have opened up a whole new life for him!

Matt has had three routine check ups with his team at U of M.  All went very well.   His Pulmonary Function Test results are stable and his doctor is very pleased with how Matt is doing.  He has recently had several colds, and he just completed another IgG infusion – which should help reduce the frequency of any future colds.

When Matt came home from church a few days ago, he said “did you notice how long I could hold the notes when I was singing?!”  And he was right!   Before his transplant he had to stop and take a breath very frequently.   It is one of many things that are so very different for Matt now!  He is SO full of happiness every day….living out this truth from King Solomon written so long ago

Ecclesiastes 7:14a

When times are good, be happy…

April 14th – Road Trip!

18 days, 9 states, 3521 miles….and LOTS of fun!

A few weeks ago we returned from a long-awaited vacation to ‘parts south’.  It was a trip we never would have dreamed of taking before Matt’s transplant surgery.  With everything we packed in, we wondered if the wheels would fall off somewhere along the way.  As we look back on it now, it could not have gone better!   Here is a quick summary…

On our way to Florida we spent one evening in northern Kentucky with our long-time friends Steve and Bobbi.  We seem to see them about every 5 years or so….it is always so good to catch up with them on their full and amazing lives!  We also stayed with Matt’s cousin JB, his wife Laura and their little girl Julieanna (and Marty the dog!).  It was great to visit them on their home turf for the first time!

Our initial ‘destination’ stop was in Altamonte Springs…a short drive from Daytona Beach and the first NASCAR race weekend of the 2017 season!

Matt was a picture-taking machine….over 800 photos in 2 days at Daytona!

It was awesome to be at the self-proclaimed World Center of Racing!












After our 2 days watching cars and trucks go fast and turn left….we spent a day visiting the town where Matt’s Grandpa and Grandma lived.  We were able to visit several of their good friends (who Gail knew well), and also saw where their ashes were buried in a beautiful garden at the church they attended.


Our next stop was Savannah, Georgia where we spent a couple days being tourists!

In one of the many beautiful city squares



Container ships are HUGE!

Family picture in our hotel…

A very cool riverboat!
















After a great stay in Savannah, we were off to McDonough, Georgia (near Atlanta), where we spent time with long time friends Terry and Alison and their amazing son Adam.   We ventured into Atlanta to visit the Georgia Aquarium….a must-see destination if you ever get anywhere near there!


Whale sharks are HUGE!





Beluga whales are so fun to watch!









Next up was – yes – another NASCAR race!   Terry and Adam enjoyed two full days at the Atlanta Motor Speedway!

Adam and Matt enjoying some March sunshine!

Terry and Alison were awesome hosts!















We then headed off to Hilton Head Island…graciously hosted by longtime friends Kip and Deb.   We learned a new card game (Golf!), and even got out on the course a little!

Matt with Kip, who modeled an awesome tee shirt!

Working on his putting stroke…


On the Atlantic Ocean beach with Kip and Deb and his brother Dan and his wife Cherry.
















After leaving Hilton Head, we spent our last night on the road with #1 son Jeff and his wife Kimi…and our grand-kitties Pirate and Fiona.  It was a great way to end our time away from home!

Matt is doing great!  He recently got a ‘Fit-bit’, and is more motivated than ever to stay active and improve his overall fitness level.   I am receiving collateral benefits by trying to keep up with him!   Last week we spent a day at U of M getting trained to be ‘peer mentors’.   We anticipate that we will be connected with individuals (and their care takers) who are considering pursuing lung transplant surgery…telling our experience to help them know what they may be facing.  Matt enjoys talking with anyone about anything — he will be very good at this mentoring role!

Matt has had such a dramatic change in his life since his lung transplant surgery.   While he is still ‘Matt’, in many ways he is like a totally new person.  On this weekend that we especially remember the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, it brings to mind how His sacrifice made ‘new life’ possible to all who believe.

Psalm 40:2-3

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.



January 29th – One year later…

One year ago today Matt took his first breath with his donor lungs.

Even though so much has happened since then, it still seems hard to believe a full 12 months have passed since that amazing day.  We enjoyed a nice dinner out this evening….and did a lot of remembering about everything that transpired last January!



What has changed for Matt (and us!):

  • Before Matt’s transplant, we used to look at his lips as he brushed his teeth to see if they were blue…indicative of low oxygen.  That was a hard habit for us to break!
  • He no longer has coughing fits after taking a shower (it used to completely exhaust him to just take a shower)
  • He can now enjoy fireplaces!
  • When out in public, we always knew where he was.   We either had him beside us (carrying his heavy oxygen tank) or he stayed put where he sat down.   Now we can’t keep up with him…he is all over the place!
  • Matt has always enjoyed cooking.   Before his transplant, he mostly stood at the counter and worked on whatever was put in front of him.   Now he is MUCH more active and involved – getting ingredients out of the fridge and cupboard, carrying things around.
  • He is far more organized now…getting things out early for planned activities, putting things away, etc.  This has been a very welcomed change!
  • Matt pushes himself hard during his exercise sessions.   Before his surgery he usually was looking for reasons to stop early, go slower…and generally slack off.   I cannot imagine how different it must feel for him now!
  • I am not sure what the longest bucket list on record is…but Matt’s is pretty long.   He continues to add things to it – making LOTS of plans!   It is fun to watch!
  • We used to plan our days around his regular inhalation treatments.   It still sometimes seems strange that he does not need these anymore!
  • Before his transplant it took a lot of effort for us to get ready to go away somewhere.   Load oxygen concentrator machine into the car, decide how many oxygen tanks to pack, package up his inhalation treatment machine, bring regular medications as well as think about what we might need if he gets sick while we are away from home.   Now the only ‘extra’ thing we need to do for Matt is grab his bin (with all his medications). and off we go!
  • Seeing the freedom he now has is such a joy!

Matt continues to do quite well.  Most of the fall he had one head-cold after another.  They discovered in November that his immunoglobulin G (IGG) level was quite low.   His team thought this might be one reason for his non-stop head colds.  Matt received an infusion treatment in December which brought his IGG level up some….but not as far as they wanted.  He is waiting to get another infusion treatment now. He will have his last ‘routine’ bronchoscopy in February where they will take tissue samples to look for indications of rejection.  He will be glad to be done with these invasive tests!   Once this next visit is complete, he will need to return to U of M for routine tests and exams every 3 months for the rest of his life.  We would also return to see his doctor if he ever showed indications of rejection (fever, breathing difficulty, feeling poorly, etc).  We are thankful that so far he has not experienced any rejection episodes, as 30% of lung transplant patients have at least one rejection episode in the first year post-surgery.

Even during these cold winter days Matt is staying busy!   We went to Kentucky to celebrate Christmas with our oldest son Jeff and his wife Kimi.  We visited the Motown Museum in Detroit a few weeks ago.  Matt has been working out regularly and has enjoyed staying connected with friends.  Last weekend he attended a special meeting of the U of M Lung Transplant Support Group, where he enjoyed visiting with a number of pre- and post-transplant patients and their families.  We then had a great afternoon and evening with Gail’s sister’s family!

As we look back at this past 12 months, we have so much to be thankful for…

  • Our family and friends have been so incredibly supportive and encouraging to Matt (and to mom and dad!).
  • Matt has had almost none of the usual complications and challenges post-surgery (we were reminded of this at the support group meeting as we visited with others!).
  • Matt’s donor family are never far from our minds.  We recently wrote a letter to them as we approached the 1 year anniversary of their loved one’s death.  Even though we wrote them last year after Matt’s surgery, we have not yet heard anything from them.  We are so very thankful for the gift of life they gave Matt….and pray for them often, as they have experienced their own year of ‘firsts’ without their loved one.  We hope to meet them someday when they are ready…praying they are taking comfort in how they helped Matt and others who received organs from their loved one.

But most of all, we are thankful to God.   We continue to remember that Matt’s life (really ALL of our lives) are in His hands, and that He numbers our days.  We take nothing for granted, as we cannot know what tomorrow will bring.  We acknowledge that everything we have enjoyed has come from Him!

Psalm 126:3

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.


December 13th – Gifts!

It’s the time of year for giving and receiving gifts!

Sometimes gifts are given without much thought, and are not deeply appreciated by the recipient.  I am reminded of the long ago Christmas when my father gave my mom a set of chains for use on our car tires in the winter.   I doubt he gave much thought when he bought them, and I am quite sure from her reaction that mom did NOT deeply appreciate the lovely set of tire chains she received!

But often, the gift giver is very thoughtful as they select just the right item…one that is needed and will be greatly valued and treasured by the receiver.  These gifts yield precious memories for years to come as the love and care of the giver are remembered.

Nearly 11 months ago, Matt was given an amazing gift when someone donated their lungs.  That gift could not have been given without it costing their life.  We still recall the words of Jenni when she called to tell Matt that it was time to come to the hospital for his transplant surgery.   She said ‘these lungs are perfect for Matt’.

The gift of these lungs has given Matt a life he previously had not known…a life with good lungs – allowing him to develop strength and endurance he has never had.  This has opened a door for him to experience many activities that were previously impossible, or were so difficult that he could not really enjoy them.

Matt has continued his ‘wear out Mom and Dad’ routine over the last few months!




He had the joy of visiting his neonatologist that cared for him 31 years ago when he was SO little!






Matt really enjoyed attending a local minor league hockey game – sitting right next to the penalty box!  He also was able to go to a college football game AND a college basketball game!





For the first time in many years he went with us on our annual ‘Christmas Tree Hunt’…making sure we got just the right tree!







Matt is responsible for setting up our manger every Christmas season.  As usual – somehow the donkey ended up in the loft!



It cost Matt’s donor their life for Matt to receive his gift….giving Matt a life he could not have otherwise lived.

During this advent season, we reflect on the gift that God has given.   It cost God his only Son to give the gift of eternal life to all who believe….a life we could not otherwise experience.

John 3:16-17

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

THAT is what we celebrate during this special season!

October 13th – The Big Apple!

What a trip!

Several weeks ago we were in New York City for a whirlwind 4 day vacation.  It was Matt’s first airplane ride in 12 years…and he LOVES to fly!   I’m not sure it really mattered where we went – he would have enjoyed it if he could travel by plane!

Other than the flying, there were plenty of other highlights!  We stayed right in midtown Manhattan on 6th Avenue….within an easy walk to Central Park, Times Square (and the Theater district) – just a half block from Radio City Music Hall.   We were on the 24th floor, giving us a really nice view of the area, and a great place to watch the non-stop traffic, ambulances, fire trucks and police cars.  Not used to hearing that many sirens!

A quick summary of what we did….


One World Trade Center, near the September 11 Memorial and Museum












Times Square at night. Matt was a picture taking machine…over 300 photos in the short time we were in NYC!











Broadway show! We saw a classic musical – Fiddler on the Roof! It was SO good!










Empire State Building! Matt with Gail on the outdoor observation deck 86 floors up! Not a cloud in the sky…an awesome view!











Matt and some old guy in Grand Central Station












Feeding the ducks in Central Park. What an oasis in the middle of all that concrete!












I don’t think we are in Midland…..!












Shopping for M&M’s. I have never seen a store quite like this one in Times Square!


At Rockefeller Plaza…just a few blocks from our hotel!


Outside our hotel – Matt was fascinated by all the ‘action’ day and night!

We enjoyed dinners out, including a wonderful evening with Gail’s cousin Diane and husband Pat who have lived in Manhattan for many years.  Matt liked the subways so much that he wanted to just go and ‘ride around’!  We experienced the expected taxi driver we could not understand (but he was really nice!).  We saw lots of street vendors, almost got on camera at Good Morning America, and heard languages from countries all over the world!  We felt like we were on ‘sensory overload’ most of the time we were there!  The night we got back home we were a little un-nerved to hear about the bombing on 23rd St and 6th Ave….just down the street from our hotel.  Thankful we were not still there and that no injuries were life threatening.

While in New York City Matt came down with a hard cold that hung on for almost 3 weeks.  What may have put him in the hospital before only cost us a few boxes of tissues – what a difference good lungs make!   Just today he had another routine followup appointment with his medical team….who were thrilled with Matt’s improved pulmonary function test score!!! (Matt was thrilled too!).   Matt has been doing well this fall – getting his fill of sports on TV (college football, NASCAR, baseball….you name it, he watches it!).

Matt’s favorite part of the NYC trip (other than flying!) was his time up on the Empire State Building.   I am guessing 100 of his photos were taken of the city skyline.    He really was taken by the perspective you get of that huge city from the top of that amazing building.

But as high as the Empire State Building is, we know that God’s perspective is altogether different than ours.   And while we cannot fully know and understand His perspective, we can give thanks knowing that His ways are higher than ours…as God told the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 55:8-9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In these confusing and troubling times we live in, I take great comfort in this!