The Benefits of Having a Coach During the Transplant Process

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by Lara Govendo |

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When I started evaluation for my double-lung transplant in spring 2015, I didn’t have any friends in the cystic fibrosis community. As I took the brave step to join Facebook groups to make connections and learn more about transplant, my eyes were opened to a whole new world. There were people just like me facing the same situation and emotional roller coaster.

The first person who reached out to welcome me instantly became my best friend, and still is today. Shaun took me under his wing and coached me through the whole transplant process.

double lung transplant | Cystic Fibrosis News Today | Shaun and Lara smile for a photo in front of Niagara Falls

Shaun and Lara adventure near Shaun’s home in Niagara Falls, Canada, in spring 2018. (Courtesy of Lara Govendo)

Shaun was completely transparent about his own transplant journey. His took place a few years before mine, so he shared his veteran expertise, giving me a clear snapshot of the road I was about to walk down. He didn’t hide any of the gory details, which I appreciated. It was gut-wrenching to hear what was in store for me, but Shaun encouraged me, saying if I wanted to live, I had to just do it and keep going, no matter what I faced.

When I went into respiratory failure and was urgently listed for transplant in spring 2017, Shaun was my anchor. His encouragement kept me laser-focused on fighting for my life. Shaun kept bringing my anxious mind back to my “why,” which was to have new life on the other side of surgery. Even after my successful transplant in August 2017, he’s continued to support me.

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Thanks to My Transplant, I Can Dream About the Future

Throughout the entire process, I’ve learned that I can trust Shaun with anything. I feel safe sharing my secret fears, the mental and emotional toll of trauma, and how hard each day can be. He doesn’t respond with toxic positivity, but rather sits in the tension of hard seasons with me. I know he will celebrate victories with me, too, no matter how small they may seem. He gets it on a soul level. Shaun’s always available to listen to what’s on my mind, be empathetic, and motivate me to do what’s necessary to stay healthy.

I can hear hard truths from Shaun. I struggle to take advice from people who haven’t been through what I have, but it’s different with Shaun. He understands the roller coaster, but can also give me tough love when I need a kick in the butt. Essentially, he serves as the filter between my valid feelings and overreactions. He’s good at keeping me in check!

About six months after my transplant, I was able to meet Shaun and his beautiful wife, Andrea, in person. It was surreal to meet them face to face after feeling like I’d known them my whole life. They are the kind of friends who feel like family.

double lung transplant | Cystic Fibrosis News Today | Lara, Andrea, and Shaun smile for a photo with their arms around each other's shoulders

From left, Lara, Andrea, and Shaun spend quality time together, in fall 2018. (Courtesy of Lara Govendo)

During the early days of the pandemic when I spent much of my time isolated, Shaun was there for me. He and Andrea FaceTimed me on Christmas night in 2020 so that we could eat dinner together. He’s always thinking of me in those situations because he knows I’m often alone. That’s the epitome of who Shaun is: always thinking of others, wanting to be there for them, and giving encouragement with a splash of humor.

Today, Shaun is still my coach. I consider him my big brother because we’re a lot alike and our lives mirror each other’s. He’s protective of me and checks in with me daily. I always look forward to the “hey, kid” messages. He follows up on everything going on in my life. I’m so blessed to have Shaun in my life as a coach, best friend, and brother.

I truly believe that God put him in my path at just the right time. Everybody needs a Shaun in their life. I’m grateful for mine!

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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