Vernon’s Kevin Kienlein

Vernon’s Kevin Kienlein

Class learns life lesson

Kevin Kienlein of Vernon shares transplant story with students

  • Jul. 3, 2011 12:00 p.m.

The 2011 B.C. Transplant media campaign is:  “live life: pass it on,” and according to its website as of May 2011, 382 people in B.C. are waiting for a second chance.

This is a story of a local man’s second chance.

Last year when Hayley Procter was in Pam Sophonow’s Grade 1 class at Silver Star Elementary, each child was to create an “all about-me” poster, including items such as their favourite foods, colours, activities, and more.

Another portion of the project was for the child to write their top three wishes. Around the same time Kevin Kienlein, a Toastmaster friend of Hayley’s parents, Robin and Sheila, had been accepted onto the wait list for a heart-double-lung transplant. While doing up the poster, Hayley asked her mom how to spell “Kevin” and “transplant” because her first wish was for Kevin to get the transplants he needed.

She drew a set of lungs and a heart instead of spelling out the words. When asked why she left her second and third wishes blank, she said: “I didn’t want to waste those, but wanted them to go to Kevin as well.”

Eight months later, on Dec. 14, 2010, Hayley got all of her three wishes granted: Kienlein received a heart-double-lung transplant at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. After more than five hours of surgery, and after three and a half months of recovery, he was able to return home to Vernon.

To celebrate his remarkable recovery, the Procters had Kienlein over for a family gathering and at that time, he and Hayley took the opportunity to take another look at her poster with the three wishes on it.

As a follow up to Hayley’s Grade 1 project and to celebrate Kienlein’s six-month, new-life anniversary, Hayley who is now in Grade 2, asked if Kienlein  would come and be her “show and share” at school.

Kienlein agreed, and the next day the excited student started the preparations by asking her Toastmaster mother for advice on how to write out her introduction for the presentation.

Hayley practised through the week and then the night before the big day, she invited Kienlein to come over so they could practise together.

On June 3,  Kienlein spoke to both Lynn Whiskin’s Grade 2 class, and Ally Thompson’s Grade 6 class, which included student Sophia Practico, who at the age of 14 months, received a heart transplant.

The two compared experiences such as how Kienlein’s incision was horizontal (clamshell) and that rather than stitches or staples, the surgeons just crazy-glued him back together.

They also got to compare medications and follow-up programs; her’s at B.C. Children’s Hospital and his at the UofA Hospital.

As part of his on-going care, Kienlien was told he’d have to visit the hospital in Edmonton on a monthly basis for the next year, however, at the end of May, the hospital gave him the good news that they didn’t want to see him for another two months.

In true show-and-share fashion, Kienlein brought out various pieces of medical equipment and devices that were used during his recovery, as well as what looked like a small fishing tackle box that contained just a seven-day supply of all of the 20-plus medications he takes daily.

He also shared with the children images of the various stages of recovery and physiotherapy during his three-month stay in Edmonton.

One of the hardest forms of physio Kienlein was required to perform was the seemingly simple act of rolling up a rope with a weight onto a short broom handle. The weight on the end of the rope was less than two pounds, but to him, this proved to be one of the most difficult therapies as it worked his forearms and chest muscles.

Kienlein’s double-lung heart transplant was just one of two performed in Canada last year and his was the 30th ever performed at the UofA hospital.   Although he may never know the name of the donor who gave him the best Christmas gift, he says he is grateful to that person and to their family for turning their loss into a life-saving event for himself.

It is Kienlein’s wish that presentations such as the one at Silver Star Elementary will encourage more people to register as organ donors.

For information on donor registry, go to www.transplant.bc.ca or call 1-800-663-6189.