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