Breathing easy

Katie
Katie Brickman
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Gadd enjoys new lease on life after transplant

On Feb. 21 at 12:30 a.m., Kevyn Gadd received the call that changed his life.

“As soon as my phone rang, I knew what it was,” said Gadd in his raspy Batman-like voice.

It was the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton calling him, offering a new set of lungs.

The Moose Jaw native, who turns 27 this month, has been dealing with health issues his entire life.

Gadd was born with congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension. He underwent heart surgery at the age of two and was taken off medication after surgery.

He went on to live 24 healthy years after the surgery, but two years ago, he got sick and ended up back on medications and routine appointments with doctors.

In Aug. 2013, Gadd and his sister went to Edmonton for a doctor’s appointment. It was there that his doctors suggested a lung transplant would be the best option for him.

Unfortunately, in Oct. 2013, Gadd got a viral infection that landed him in hospital.

During his time at the Edmonton hospital, the doctors started the process of putting Gadd on the transplant list.

From late December to early February, Gadd participated in a six-week physiotherapy program in Edmonton.

“It was just learning what to expect and getting my body ready for the surgery,” Gadd said. “It gets your body strong because after surgery, the body is so weak.”

In that program, Gadd did cardio and weight training five times a week for two hours per day. Jennifer, one of his trainers, started the six-week program about 10 years ago after seeing so many patients weak after getting a transplant.

“The training was crucial,” said Gadd. “I don’t think I would have been as strong after … without the proper medications and training, I would have just been so weak.”

Gadd finished the six-week program and was back in Moose Jaw for just 13 days before getting the call to head back to Edmonton for the transplant.

“I was told within a year, but you never expect it to be within two weeks,” he said.

Gadd and his mother drove to Regina and were in Edmonton by 5:45 a.m. Medical staff prepped him and he was ready for surgery by 10:30 a.m.. His surgery lasted 10.5 hours.

“I don’t think I had any nerves because I knew it had to be done. I knew it was the right thing,” said Gadd. “The hardest part was just waiting.”

The average time for a lung transplant is six to eight hours. Gadd’s went longer because the surgeons also fixed his heart.

“I remember waking up and seeing my parents and sister,” he said. “I was still groggy though. For the first day and half, it was pretty rough and I don’t really remember much.”

He was in the ICU for just over a week and then he started occupational therapy. He continued to push himself and his new lungs by doing laps around the ward.

As he continued to get stronger, he got back into his routine of doing physiotherapy five days a week, clinical twice a week where he got blood work done and other tests to evaluate his lung capacity.

“I was lucky … I had no complications,” Gadd said of his surgery.

His sister started a blog — A Breath of Fresh Air — while Gadd was in surgery, in order to document the journey to full recovery and to keep people up to date on how he was doing in hospital.

He has continued with the blog and has dreams of possibly turning it into a book.

“If this can help just one person after they read this, that is my goal,” he said. “If I get it published, I would donate most, if not all of the money to transplant research at the Edmonton hospital.”

There are also hopes of starting a Transplant Trot next year with a 3 km, 5 km and 10 km walk/run.

“It is really important to help people, but now that I’ve seen how people helped me, I know how great it is to help others,” Gadd said.

Katie Brickman can be reached at 306-691-1260 or follow her on Twitter @katiebrickman

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Plea for online registry

There are 1,441 Canadians living with a lung transplant.

In 2012, 194 lung transplants were performed and 82 per cent of them were double lung transplants, like Gadd’s.

The number of transplants has grown by 62 per cent since 2003.

In 2012, there were 329 Canadians waiting to receive a transplant and a total of 69 died waiting.

“I would tell people to really think about organ donation because if it is your beliefs and values, it just makes sense,” said Gadd. “Really though, what are you doing with them once you pass away?”

Gadd stated he has personally known people that have died and donated all organs and tissues, which saved eight lives.

“It can really make a difference,” he said. “It is the best gift you can give.”

Saskatchewan is the only province that does not have an online donor registry and that is a cause that Gadd is behind. He wants to see the province get on board, with hopes that more people would become organ donors.

“It is important that your family knows what your wishes are because even if you are listed as a donor, the family can still veto it,” Gadd said. “That reason alone is why online registry is important.”

-Brickman

Organizations: Edmonton hospital, University of Alberta Hospital

Geographic location: Edmonton, Moose Jaw, Regina

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  • Mary Suderman
    August 16, 2014 - 14:36

    October 8, 2013 was my double lung transplant. What a miracle it is. I'm happy you are doing well also. Take care.