Even before his transplant, he lived on the edge, often saying “we know skateboarding/snowboarding/mountain biking/or whatever he felt an urge to conquer, isn’t going to be what kills me”.
When he was 21, Vincent met the love of his life, Kathleen (Kat). She gave Vincent something to live for and soon, he asked her to marry him. Cystic Fibrosis was slowly robbing him of life, but Kat gave him a reason to keep fighting. Together, they embarked on the life-saving journey of a double-lung transplant.
That journey was full of challenges. First, we had to get Vincent into good enough physical shape to survive the transplant. He was already on oxygen 24 hours a day due to his dangerously low lung function. He also relentlessly accepted having a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen to provide the much-needed nutrition and calories via tube feedings every night.
One of the conditions required of all potential transplantees is having at least one support person available throughout the entire process, and if they lived outside of Edmonton, they would have to do their own fundraising to meet the financial burden of having to stay in Edmonton for extended periods of time. Since our family lived and worked in Lethbridge, we decided to do whatever was needed in order to make a double lung transplant possible for Vincent.
Fundraising was an onerous effort, as this was before such things as Go Fund Me. A BreatheLife web page was created and the fundraising began. Vincent continued with his night feedings and worked hard to build up his physical strength. In March of 2005, the Transplant Team at the University of Alberta Hospital agreed that Vincent deserved to be put on the transplant list. (read more, flip over)
On September 27th, 2005 at 1:00 in the morning, we got the call that a pair of lungs were available. Vincent was medivacked from Lethbridge to the University Hospital in Edmonton, while the rest of us packed up our vehicles and headed for Edmonton to be by his side.
Vincent went into surgery at 8:30 that morning. At 4:30 p.m. we were advised that Vincent survived the surgery and was in recovery. He was then transferred to the ICU. On September 30th, Vincent’s 24th birthday, they removed the breathing tube, allowing him to take his first unaided breath. We’ve always considered that to be his second birth date. To this day, we celebrate every September 27th as “Vincent’s New Lung” Day.
Once Vincent was discharged, he and Kat checked into a hotel, as they were required to stay in Edmonton for 90 days post-transplant for daily visits to the University Hospital. The rest of the family returned home and travelled back often to provide support.
The requirement to travel to Edmonton for post-transplant care did not end after his transplant. On several occasions, Vincent and Kat traveled to Edmonton for many hospital visits and admissions. Vincent became a source of hope and inspiration to other transplantees. He battled, as he lived, with every breath. He fought organ rejection and chronic infections that ravaged his new lungs. He continued to champion for others who were waiting for, and recovering from, double lung transplants.
As Vincent’s mother, I know firsthand the emotional and financial stress that accompanies a loved one needing a life-saving transplant. Breathing Space will provide respite and relief for transplantees and their families who require life-saving treatments to survive. Your support means they can focus all of their energy on caring for their loved one, instead of worrying incessantly about managing finances.
Vincent passed away on July 10, 2007, at the age of 25. Visit BreatheLife at facebook.com/breathelife.ca for more information about Vincent.
Gina Champagne, Vincent’s Mom