Frank Byrne of Marystown says he has a new lease on life and a message to share following double lung transplant surgery in Toronto.
"When you go up there and you see so many people waiting for liver transplants and heart transplants and kidneys and lungs then it really hits home then that you should sign a donor's card and try to help other people," said Byrne.
Byrne, who has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, was told by his doctor that he only had five years to live unless he got a double lung transplant.
Byrne and his wife Mona moved to Toronto to prepare for the surgery. The first try for a transplant was disappointing. After 12 hours of tests, doctors found the donor lungs were not a match.
"Even though you wants the lungs, you're still scared. It's hard to explain, there's so much stuff going through your mind," said Byrne. "You want it and your don't want it. You're hoping it's going to go through and you don't."
The next set of lungs did match up and Byrne was prepped for the transplant. The nine-hour double transplant surgery was emotionally draining for his wife, Mona.
"When I left him at the doors of the OR that morning, and I was alone, I thought I was just going to fall on the floor," said Mona Byrne. "I didn't know if I was going to see him again."
Surgery a success
Byrne's surgery was a success. The 65-year-old said he feels great and he has been able to get back to his usual activities.
The Byrnes hope their story will encourage others to check off the organ donor option on the back of their drivers' license registration cards and to make family members aware of their wishes.
'Frank wouldn't be here today without organ donation.' - Mona Byrne
"Frank wouldn't be here today without organ donation," said Mona Byrne.
Before the couple left Toronto, they met former patients who have been living with donated lungs for more than 15 years, which they said they found very encouraging.
Byrne said he often thinks about the person who gave him his new lease on life.
"The sad part about it, for me to live a nice normal life, some other kind person had to give up their life for me to get their lungs," reflected Byrne. "Which I'm very grateful that they did give up their lungs and sign their donor card."
"And I hope everyone else signs one, too."