Monday, January 16, 2006

In Praise of The Lung Transplant Team at Toronto General Hospital

Merv Sheppard in ICU post-transplantI've come a long way since these first days of my "second chance". This April 20th will mark the four-year anniversary of my single-lung transplant. And what a wonderful four years it's been! I experienced the miracle of receiving life from where there was virtually no life and this has changed me forever. I feel better today than I have for many years with boundless energy and a feeling of overall well being. I will be eternally grateful to my donor and his or her family and the wonderful Lung Transplant Team at the Toronto General Hospital division of the University Health Network.

This year's Rose Parade theme was "It's Magical" and the Donate Life float's theme was "Life Transformed". This could not be more apt or appropriate, at least in my case. My transplant touched my life by giving me the "Gift of Life". It has transformed me physically, emotionally and spiritually. My lung transplant has had a profound, and yes, magical, impact on my life, as I'm sure organ and tissue transplantation has helped hundreds of thousands of people regain their health with the same impact on their lives, families and friends. Speaking of friends, many of the best friends I have ever known I only met since my transplant, through the special bond that exists in our transplant community.

A noted cardiologist said on TV how impressed he was with the monitoring and follow-up transplant patients receive and how he wished all patients could have the same attention.

That got me to thinking about the follow-up I've received as a pre and post lung-transplant patient and it's been absolutely second to none. I have never been more impressed with any group more than with The Lung Transplant Team at Toronto General Hospital, from the doctors to the nurses, transplant coordinators, the Support Group, physiotherapists, respiratory and pulmonary function technologists, and other support staff and technicians. This also includes the staff at Toronto Western Hospital where I have various tests and procedures from time to time. At first, because I was treated so royally, I thought they might have mistaken me for a Head of State or other V.I.P. until I learned that every patient is treated this way. It is very obvious they are not just doing a job, but have a compassionate interest and dedication to their patient's optimal recovery and well being.

In addition to my regular clinics and visits, I received a steady stream of calls and messages from "the team" since my discharge. This was further emphasized for me recently; I missed getting my monthly blood work done when it was scheduled and sure enough, my transplant coordinator was on the phone to find out why. With all this attention it would be easy to think I was the only patient they had. But I happen to know The Lung Transplant Team has a caseload of hundreds of patients at various stages of follow-up and treatment. How they do it I don't know, but it must involve a lot of hours, passion for their career and hard work.

Not only have I been given the gift of life but is very comforting to know that there is a team of people monitoring and watching over me to make sure that my gift of a single-lung transplant survives and stays part of me for a long time to come. So, whether you are waiting for a transplant, post-transplant or a support person or friend, I feel you and yours could not be in better hands than those of the Toronto General Hospital Lung Transplant Team!

10 comments:

Andrea said...

What a wonderful posting Merv! It is wonderfully put and well deserved praise indeed. Thank you for putting some of my thoughts into words; the transplant team deserves all the compliments in the world! I had only a few months experience as a support person yet felt they were invaluable. I hope they read this and know even if just a little bit how much they are truly appreciated.

Andrea Plumb

Roger Awad said...

Merv,
What a great tribute. Three years ago I knew very little about this wonderful medical life saving procedure. It wasn't until my brother Tom was stricken with a serious liver decease and received his gift of life. As a Co Chair of Sport-Fest Windsor, an organization formed by Tom Awad and myself to promote organ donor awareness and to honour donor families, I feel very fortunate, as does his wife and children, to have him alive and well and miraculously playing slo-pitch again at the age of 63years. After receiving a liver transplant at the eleventh hour I recall visiting him in London and seeing the same caring treatment from all the staff.
We often take life for granted and the care we receive from professional people in the medical environment. I am not an organ donor or an organ recipient, but I do truly appreciate the care and medical attention Tom received while he fought for his life.
As Andrea stated I hope they read this and know how much they are truly appreciated.
Roger Awad
Co Chair
Sport Fest Windsor
Together we can turn
"TRAGEDIES INTO MIRACLES"
by signing our organ donor cards.

Barbara Hall said...

Dear Merv, I could not agree with you more, the Team at T.G.H. are incredible.
As you know (my husband) Tom had his single lung transplant Nov. 7, 1983. Since he was the only patient at that time with a lung transplant he had excellent attention and T.L.C. from everyone involved.
So it is wonderful to hear that after all these years, this wonderful team is still doing such an incredible job.
I know that Tom would be delighted to hear "The Team", is treating all the patients as he was, in those early years of Lung Transplantion.
My family and I wish all the patients a very happy '2006' and our very best to all their future endeavours.
Sincerely, Barbara Hall

ed. note: Tom Hall was the first successful lung transplant recipient in the world.

Edward Sabat said...

Very, very well said Merv!!! I will be passing it on.
Edward (Eddie) Sabat
(heart transplant recipient)

Dick Winter said...

Hi Merv,

Thanks for your story.

I had a liver transplant at TGH in 1990 and my words would mimic what you are saying. The attention we received was fantastic and it continues to this day. They are all unbelievable. Dick Winter.

The Skiffingtons said...

Thank-you Merv for your wonderful words & accurate praise. And of course a big Congratulations on your up coming 4th transplant anniversary!!!

My husband, Bradley, will be celebrating his 4th double lung transplant anniversary on Jan 26/06 & with each wonderful year we are so grateful to the ENTIRE team at the TGH.

When Brad was first put on the lung transplant list (2001) the TGH was performing approx. 12 lung transplants a year. Now they are doing at least 4 times that many a year !

What an amazing group of talented individuals that are able to create an incredible gift, often, from a terrible tragedy. From the pre-transplant care to the amazing post transplant follow up you always know the "team" is there to help, always concerned , always caring!

So we would like to take this opportunity to say Thank-you to all the wonderful people invovled in the transplant process, from the medical teams, to the different clubs & groups, to the support people and to all the donors & their families!

Thank-you for giving life, for bringing great joy & happiness.

As well, Thank-you Merv for giving us the opportunity to say this.

Wishing everyone a healthy 2006 filled with happiness & laughter!!

Rebecca & Bradley Skiffington

Transplant Organs said...

Merv,
You have eloquently said what many of us feel in our hearts. Thank you. Today as I sat with my friends in The Ontario East Transplant Support Group I commented at the end of our meeting that 5 of those present would not have been there today had it not been for their transplanted organs (2 liver, 1 kidney pancreas, 3 double lung).
What can you say to those who have given you the Gift of Life, both the donor, their family and of course the medical staff at TGH/Western. Words are simply not enough and as each day begins I give thanks for that most precious of all gifts.
This week I also spent time with two people who were waiting in the hope of receiving a Gift of Life. A message like the one you have posted provides that incentive to stick it out and try to maintain a positive outlook.
May you continue the good work Merv and may you be blessed with many more wonderful years.

Pastor Ian. www.pastorian.com

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Anonymous said...

WHAT A WONDERFUL STORY OF COURAGE. I WAS ALSO GIVEN A DOUBLE LUNG TRANSPLANT AT TORONTO GENERAL.I WAS 31 YEARS OLD AND I WAS PUT ON THE WAITING LIST AND GOT THE CALL IN LESS THEN A WEEK. MY INSPIRATION TO KEEP GOING ON AND TAKING CARE OF MYSELF HAS TO DO WITH MY SON SEAN. EVERYDAY I THINK ABOUT MY DONOR AND THANK GOD THAT THEY HAD MADE THAT DECESION TO GIVE ME LIFE. WITHOUT EVER KNOWING THEM,I WILL ALWAYS LOVE THEM. THANK YOU T.G.H GOING ON FOUR YEARS AND STILL STAYING STRONG.