'I will fight as long as I can fight': Sask. man with cystic fibrosis receives double lung transplant
SASKATOON -- A Regina man who has been living with cystic fibrosis for years underwent a double lung transplant last month, giving him a second chance at life.
“I thought I will fight as long as I can fight. That’s my end goal. I will fight until I can get (a lung transplant). So I never thought past that. I never thought when abouts. I just fought to get to it,” Devon Hack told CTV News.
The 48-year-old, who has a wife, Stacey, and nine-year-old son, Luke, said he didn’t expect to live this long after being diagnosed with the disease at the age of five.
“I remember hearing the doctor say ‘your son will not make 20. So prepare for this’... so my parents always had a very good outlook of that. They made sure I enjoyed everything. I was always taken care of,” he said.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that mainly effects the lungs and digestive system. People with the disease experience difficulty breathing and progressive lung damage caused by chronic infections.
Hack said it causes him to get winded easier and stops him from being able to take part in certain activities, especially when it comes to Luke.
“He would bring me stuff upstairs because he knew that going up and down the stairs could wipe me out for 10 minutes. So he actually had to grow up a little faster than I would’ve liked because I never got to do a lot of the stuff that I would’ve liked to have done with him but he should get that opportunity now so I’ll try to make up for some of the no ball catching and running around with him,” Hack said.
At the same time, Stacey said it encourages all of them to never take their time together for granted.
“Living with someone who takes everyday as a gift is such an uplifting and positive place to live. It’s just everyday is a gift. There’s all these special moments,” she said.
Over the years, Hack said his lung capacity began to diminish and the risk of infections grew, causing him to step away from his job and from refereeing — his favourite pastime.
“It was getting quite bad. I had had two major infections, three hemoptysis, which are large bleeds in the lungs because the scar tissue starts opening up because there’s just so much scar tissue. So I would lose about a cup of blood every time I would have these attacks. So they were getting concerned,” he said.
Hack was put on the waitlist for a lung transplant in December and said he got a call at the end of July about a match.
“I had two friends there, so I pointed to my one friend and started yelling ‘you have to call Stacey’ and I pointed to my other friend, and I said ‘you gotta call my mom’ because I knew I only had two hours from that phone call because once you accept the lungs, that kicks the whole process off.”
Stacey said it was also a very exciting moment for her.
“I just remember feeling overjoyed . ‘Yes, it’s time! We’re finally getting this and he’s going to make it.’”
Hack and Stacey were taken by air ambulance to Edmonton for the surgery on July 24 and will be staying there for the next two months while he recovers and does follow up tests.
“By statistics, I’ve pretty well beat most odds. I was out of the ICU in two days... I’m as healthy as I can be. I no longer get tired from walking. Now it’s my legs because they were so inactive. Now my lungs are saying ‘go’ and my legs are saying ‘don’t go’ so it’s totally a different feeling for that reversal,” Hack said.
He said he plans on going back to refereeing and taking part in all of the activities he did before as soon as the doctor clears him.
“I feel blessed. Lots of people helped us get here. I can’t say it’s an individual or any one person. It takes our team and the surgeon who was amazing.”
A friend also set up a GoFundMe page for Hack and his family earlier this year to help cover the costs associated with the surgery and expenses of being away from home.
To date, over $15,000 has been raised.