When I was born doctors quickly realized something was wrong. I started to turn blue. It was my heart. Doctors told my parents that if I was going to survive, I needed open-heart surgery and quickly. I was put on a helicopter and flown away for open-heart surgery. The surgery was incredibly risky but it was successful. After a lengthy recovery, my parents took their new son home. There were more surgeries and hospital visits, but it was 22 years before I faced the biggest challenge of my life.
It was 2002 when my condition grew worse. Suddenly I couldn’t climb a hill without losing my breath and I felt exhausted all the time. In just three months I lost more than a quarter of my body weight. I saw my doctor to see what was going on. He sat me down and said the words that changed my life: “You need a heart and double lung transplant and you need it now.”
Two months later, my dad and I left the rest of our family at home and moved to Toronto to start waiting. After four months my condition grew worse and I was put in hospital. I lay in the same bed for six more months waiting for a miracle. Finally, on September 6th, at 10:15pm the call came. The next morning, the doctors came to get me for surgery. I looked at Mom and she looked at me. Both of us searching for the right words to say knowing they could be our last. All that came out was “See you soon.” There was no mention of the possibility of a negative outcome.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in two World Transplant Games, run three marathons, and become the gold medalist at the 2006 Canadian Transplant Games. Now not a day goes by that I don’t remember what it was like to sit in that hospital room wondering if I’d ever get to really LIVE life again and so I see each day as a great opportunity to live life to the fullest.
That journey has taught me three big lessons.
1) Choose a Positive Perspective. We will all face difficult things in our lives. The difference between those who are happy and those who aren’t is not what happens to you, but how you handle it.
2) Live Today. Most of us waste away our lives worrying about tomorrow and regretting yesterday’s mistakes. When I was in the hospital I realized that the only thing I could control was today. Live today as best as you can, and tomorrow will take care of itself.
3) Go Big or Stay Home. You only get one chance at this thing called life. You don’t do anyone any favours by living it small. Set big goals for yourself. You may be surprised what you can accomplish.
Your life is what you make it. Make yours great!