My name is Kadeem, 23 years old and about to hit my 3 year post-transplant anniversary. It was just three years ago I had fallen ill do another contracted infection in which caused me serious chest pain, chest tightness, long strung-out coughing fits that would leave my heart racing and me gasping for air afterwards. I couldn’t speak a sentence without exerting a deadly coughing fit. I couldn’t sleep because coughing would keep me up at night. Always throwing up anything I had eaten, constant discharge of mucous whenever I coughed. Things were the worst they have ever been for me. February of 2017 was the first time I had ever had to call an ambulance to take me to the hospital. Every other time I was able to carry myself downtown Toronto via Toronto Transit System, but not this time.
Upon being admitted to St. Michaels Hospital, I was given the ‘regular’ tune-up rounds of medications and physiotherapy. After a two week go about, nothing was changing. In fact, things have progressed so poorly, the doctors felt that it was a waste of both time, and my body’s energy to do the mandated Pulmonary Function Test, otherwise known as PFTs. After 20+ years of the same treatments, same drugs, same routines, my body had finally built up a full resistance to all proposed medications. Mid march of 2017 it had become obvious that my body was shutting down. The doctors made it clear that the only thing that would prolong my life was to have a double lung transplant. No one was even certain that I would survive long enough to get a match/donor, but I was listed nonetheless. Ironically, after signing all the documents and paperwork, I was starting to feel a lot better physically and mentally. Needing a lot less oxygen, going from a constant 8 litres, to just 4 litres during exercise. Though this was the case, i knew i still needed the surgery, because the next time i get sick, i knew for a fact i would not have survived.
By the grace of god, or whatever higher being or whomever was watching over me. The following month April 2017 I got the call to make my way over to Toronto General Hospital to prep for a double lung transplant. Got the call on Good Friday (ironically), and was in surgery the following Saturday night.
After a long 10-12 hours of being on the operating table being sliced and diced, the surgery was a success. I woke up the following Monday, wondering if i had entered Heaven. Reason being, I could for the first time in my entire life BREATHE. With a breathing tube in my mouth, down my throat, i was still trying my so very best to talk. Mind you, nothing i said was remotely audible, but for me,I did not care. I was able to motion my mouth, and voice box without the fear of running out of oxygen, or inciting a deathly coughing fit. The feeling was surreal.
As the months went on, the whole novelty feeling of being alive wore off steadily. I then began to have thoughts that revolved around “why?”. Questions like “Why have I survived something that has very high chances of killing others?”, “what makes me so special to be alive? Whats so different with my life, that I am here, when someone else also deserved to live but never got the chance”. Three years post, and i still find myself having these thoughts. Being well known in my CF community, i have had a few good friends of mine (fellow CFers) who have succumbed to Cystic Fibrosis and the literal hell it riddles your life with. Again, people who deserved to live, but never got the chance. Just a few weeks ago (November 20th 2019) a friend of mine passed away after being in hospital for 12 months straight, awaiting a double lung, kidney, and pancreas transplant, while being on the list for over two years. Didn’t help his case when doctors found traces of cancer through out his body. He was loved, treated well, and treated others with the utmost respect. He deserved to live. Thats the narrative that keeps running through my mind.
Though the “Gift of Life” is nothing to undervalue, or not be thankful for. One must think and understand. What does it cost. Trade in a terminal illness for something very serious but not as fatal? Depression is common within transplant patients, but I feel like its not a topic that is heavily looked into, as we are supposed to be gracious, and joyous for our new lease on life.
Don’t get me wrong. I am an advocate for anything and everything CF. I mentor young children, new parents who’s child/children have CF. I owe it to those who helped get me to where i am today. But at the cost of developing depression, anxiety. Even superheroes are average people underneath their uniforms…
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