The anniversary of a miracle

Well-known Vernon musician and photographer Kevin Kienlein expresses deep gratitude on one-year anniversary of his heart and lung transplant

It seems the time has passed so quickly. On Dec. 14, 2010 I was whisked off to Edmonton via the medivac air ambulance to have my surgery. It seems like just a few weeks ago that this truly wondrous miracle occurred. Some unknown stranger and their family gave their consent to be an organ donor, they lost their life and passed it on to me. Dr. Dennis Modry, his surgical team, the nurses and the rest of the transplant team/staff dedicated their knowledge, time and resources to give me the gift of life, a second chance at life with the 30th heart and double lung transplant done at the University of Alberta Hospital.

In the past year I have received many cards, greetings and prayers, it is a challenge to count or remember all of them. I would like to thank everyone for their kind words of encouragement and continued support. It means a lot me and my family, I am humbled.

In the 12 months since my transplant I have been to Edmonton several times for follow up appointments. Each time I arrive at the hospital it feels like I am home in a strange way, a comfort zone of sorts after living there for several months. Then again when I come back over the hill and see Vernon, I feel at home again. A strange paradox in my life.

I am doing well, the doctors are pleased with my progress. They keep sending me home with a few less medications each time. I now however, will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of my life and need to be wary of flus, viruses and other environments that may harm my precious gift. Even shaking hands or getting a hug from someone is a risk if they have something I could catch.

Since getting back to Vernon in April I have participated in and sang at the Vernon Kidney Walk, presented my transplant journey and entertained at the Kamloops Kidney Walk, presented to Silver Star school, toastmasters and rotary clubs and have attended several jam sessions to test out my new lungs. They work great and my voice is very good, my fingers are also being reminded of their role. Keep your eyes open, I will soon be out ‘fiddling around.’

In 2012 I have plans for kayaking, golfing and going to Calgary for the Canadian Transplant Games in July. I just need to learn a sport!

Through my transplant experience I have met many other transplant recipients and many others waiting for their call. Every transplant journey is different and unique. I was very blessed. I had a few bumps in the road, gone past them and have done very well since. Others I know are not so fortunate, some have many complications and issues that are not easily resolved. For my friend Annee after nine months of waiting in the hospital for a donor, she is now six months post transplant and has still not gone home.

Cindy, a young lady from Vernon, had her liver transplant Oct. 14 and is still having challenges. Please keep them in your thoughts.

I feel blessed that I had such wonderful support from everyone in Vernon and my friends on the internet. Facebook was a wonderful way to keep in touch, the messages on my page and ‘Friends of Kevin Kienlein’ were most appreciated.

Advent and Christmas will now always have a special meaning to me and those who know me. I now have two birthdays, one in the summer and one in the winter. For one special family it will always be a time of remembrance for a loved one they lost. They now live on in a special place in my heart until we meet, and I will be able to thank them in person for their generosity.

Lastly, part of my new life is informing the public about organ and tissue donation and registration. If you are not a registered donor my hope is you would consider registering at www.transplant.ca to leave a living legacy, give someone a second chance at life and be a hero to someone you will never meet.

God bless you all this Christmas season, I look forward to seeing you all in 2012.

Kevin Kienlein

Vernon