Wednesday, December 30, 2015

On the Radio - My 2015 Song of the Year

This marks the fourth time I've chosen my "song of the year"-- a song that was new (to me) and resonated with me more deeply than any other. A former student and her college radio show get credit for introducing me to the the song I chose this year, as was the case in 2013. At some point I need to write a post about that song snd the other previous too. 

Regina Spektor is perhaps most well known as the singer songwriter responsible for the tune which opens each episode of Orange is the New Black. The song I heard on my student's show several months ago begins with a somewhat morbid and esoteric verse, but some of the lines reflect my reality from two years ago: a young guy walking though a busy store with oxygen is not wholly unlike driving a hearse through a crowd. This verse ends with a lyric about disease affecting loved ones. It was about then that this song "hit me," and it didn't let up. 

While the chorus replays one of those odd events in life that I've always found fun to analyze and appreciate, and enjoy even more in my post-transplant life. 
But it is the second verse that locked it into "song of the year" territory. As someone whose heart literally pumped someone else's blood, who was one room down from a man my age fighting to survive every day following a heart transplant, Spektor's depiction of what "life" is speaks to me on a very literal level, as well as an emotional one.

 I fought back tears writing this, just as I do each time I listen to "On the Radio."  Here is a link which includes lyrics if you'd like to hear my "Song of 2015."

Friday, December 18, 2015


     If you are a user of Instagram, but you'd rather not add another person to follow (i.e. me) you can search the hashtag thanksnewlungs and you will see all the posts I've made that are relevant to my transplant experience. Most of my posts fit into that category, as I created my Instagram account to be an extension of the blog. 

     As I head into our school's holiday break and near the 16 month anniversary of my transplant, I hope to move closer to my goal of finishing the book I'm writing through this blog. Wish me luck on wrapping it up in early 2016!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Another One Year Ago Look-Back...

     I owe a debt to Mark Zuckerberg.  Not a monetary one-- he doesn't need more money anyway-- but one that stems from the awareness Facebook provides via it's "Today in the Past" feature.  Yesterday it reminded me that one year ago, I was at the high school where I worked for 10 years at a silent auction / jewelry sale fundraiser to raise proceeds for Gift of Life Michigan.  It was an incredible experience to see so many people come together for an excellent cause, especially because it was being done in my honor.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New, Cool, and Never Before...

Yesterday I received an e-mail letting me know that the University of Michigan Transplant Events Center had added a page devoted to my transplant journey.  I am remarkably honored to have, for the first time, a web page that features my name in it!  (I'm not counting the one I had to make for a class in college, which was just a loose collections of Simpsons references and a link to Eastern Michigan University's newspaper, The Echo.)

Friday, December 4, 2015

YouTube featuring MeTube

     In case you are one of the 3,000 plus people who didn't already watch this video via my wife's footage of it, or the official version which the University of Michigan Transplant Center posted, OR you are one of the handful of people who wants to watch the video again because you can't get enough of me, the Transplant Center has posted the official video to their YouTube channel.  In the margin to the right, you should see a link to a video featuring Kyle Clark, who received a pair of "reconditioned" lungs using the cutting edge XVIVO technology.  He and I will meet for the first time when we team up as Batman and Spider-Man this summer to thrill the Camp Michitanki kids.  I am hoping we've both rehabilitated our upper bodies enough by then to bench press each other, or at least have an arm wrestling contest for the ages!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Hashtags Told Me So

Yesterday, every time I looked at social media or checked my e-mail, I saw a reminder about #GivingTuesday.  It seems after the worldwide push to buy things on the Internet at low low prices on Cyber Monday, people thought it would be a good idea for the following day to focus on being charitable and other centered.  #othercentered  ;)

     While I feel like this blog is in many ways one long endorsement for why people should become organ donors, today I'm asking you to consider joining the #GivingTuesday cause.  This is an interrelated two-part request.  The first is a request for your time.  If you aren't already a donor, I hope that you will take a few minutes and Google how to become one in your state / province / country.  In Michigan, the process to sign up can be done entirely online and takes only a few minutes.  If you are already a donor, my time-related request is that you take a few moments to ask someone you love, or someone you work with, or a stranger, (bonus points if you can find one person who fits all three of those descriptions!!!) if he or she is a donor, and if not, encourage them to become one. 

     The second part of this request is that you tell your loved ones about your desire to be a donor.  This is not a legal requirement, because your decision is your decision, but telling the people you care about can make the whole process easier to digest and deal with should your family one day find themselves grieving your loss.  I know from talking to several different donor families that they feel their loved one "completed her journey" or "fulfilled his destiny" because they their sister, son, husband, or mother had spoken about the desire to be a donor, and then saved and improved lives when their organs were matched with people in need.

     I know it can be hard to take hashtags seriously sometimes, but perhaps #GivingTuesday can prompt a Wonderful Wednesday, and by the weekend, "sudden surge in donor registrations" will be "trending" on social media. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Games Brothers Play

     Aside from baseball, football was the only other sport my brothers and I would routinely play together, just the three of us.  Basketball on our non-regulation hoop took the form of HORSE or involved the kids in my mom's day care, but we could play a reasonable facsimile of football through a game we invented and named "Interception."  The name was so chosen because that was the primary indicator of success.  For instance, if my brothers were on offense, one passing to the other, my goal was to stop them from scoring, and intercepting the pass (you are not allowed to run the ball) was the best way to do that.  When we invented the game, I could have never known it would become a Thanksgiving tradition-- one which I would enjoy more than I ever thought possible once I was no longer "benched" by the condition of my health.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Birthday Images

The following images nicely sum up my marvelous 33rd birthday. 
One of my favorite meals, topped off with the only kind of cake I like, angel food, in candy bar form!

These three images perfectly capture how wonderful and nerdy my birthday was. 

I met up with my mom to shop and eat the best steak sandwich in the world last Friday.  Clearly a lot of my birthday centered around food.  That may explain why I am 40 lbs. heavier on this birthday than I was on my last one!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Exactly One Year Ago Today -- Geneses Revisited...

     The video at the end of this post was filmed on this date last year.  I was in the midst of what I described as the "best month ever" at the time, and I am so grateful that this one has been even better.  The original post, "Geneses*," is below... My goal of visiting science classes remains a reality, so if you are in the southeast Michigan area and happen to be a teacher, feel free to contact me!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Birthday Full of Wonder

     This is my 100th post to this blog, a fittingly round number on the day I turn 33 years of age.  Birthdays mean very different things to different people.  For some it is a day to celebrate, to spoil oneself and bask in some well deserved attention.  For others, it is a day to ignore, a reminder of advancing age and little else.  For me, even more so than last year on my first post-transplant birthday, it is a day to ponder.  Because now and forever more, my birthday reminds me of the life of the person who saved mine, a person whose birthdays are now a reminder of absence, what-ifs, and loss.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Simply a Marvel

     Stane Lee, one of the creators of Spider-Man, is well known for saying "Face front, true believers!"  I feel that quote is very apropos, considering that I am sharing the official, full front angle video of my Vita Redita speech today.  The Michigan Transplant Center's Facebook page posted it Monday.  Between the video my wife made that I shared on YouTube and this official version, my speech has been viewed a staggering 2,200 times.  I am stunned by this number, and incredibly happy that the potential impact of my speech is now seven times larger than it was when I spoke the three hundred people in attendance that night. 

The link to the official video:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A "Dad Can Do It" Weekend

     While day-to-day I recognize what an amazing gift my post-transplant health is, sometimes I have an extra clear window into how different and better my life is now than it was when I considered myself "healthy" four or five years ago.

     This past weekend, my son was invited to be in a flag football tournament about an hour away from our home.  The two day affair precluded him from going to hockey on Saturday, but not Sunday.  (We misread the forms and thought we were signing up for a once a weekend group, but, hey, now we get twice as much for our money!)  All told, my son spent four hours playing football and one hour playing hockey over the weekend.  On top of that, my brother-in-law gave us three 50-yard line tickets to the University of Michigan football game-- so my wife, son, and I attended as an entire family for the first time in three seasons. 

     My son was four then, and I remember thinking that I was grateful that the tickets did not require me to walk any stairs, which is only true of a tiny number of seats inside that stadium.  I thought this because it meant that if he wasn't able to behave at the game, it would be very easy to leave, and also because it saved me from the strain and embarrassment of getting winded and coughing when I reached my seat. 

     This past Saturday, I had no concerns about either of these issues.  I had spent the morning walking around an unfamiliar high school football complex, first to find my son's teammates, and later to scout out the nearest bathroom for the parents on the sideline who were concerned about the distance between our field and the main hub of the event.  By comparison, getting to a seat in a football stadium, albeit the largest one in North America, was a breeze.

     Now, all of this is not to say that I'm Superman or something.  (I'm more of a Spidey guy anyway, of course.)  After all the walking, the driving, the hauling of sideline chairs, and the lugging of hockey equipment, I was exhausted on Sunday afternoon and enjoyed a well earned nap.  But so did my wife and son.  Two years ago, I took a daily nap triggered by the exhaustion of just living my daily life, the most demanding aspect of which was folding and putting away laundry.

     The overriding realization that a weekend like the one I just had is this:  I feel so far removed from the man who, two years ago, was on oxygen and got tired just putting on a sweater that I need to take time, like I'm doing now, to record how grateful I am for how far I've come.  It would be easy to let the old me fade into memory and lose appreciation for the restoration my life has undergone.  Instead, just as I did while watching the game with my son, I maintain a laser focus on keeping the 'gratitude train' on its tracks.
After a fantastic weekend, we all wished we could take a nap during the drive home.  Only my son was afforded that pleasure.  Although "pleasure" may be the wrong word based on how uncomfortable he looks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Over Due and Properly Developed...

     When I went on medical leave, our district was still in the "growing pains" stages of making a focused effort to eliminate the racially predictable gaps in achievement and discipline that, sadly, exist in so many schools around the nation.  I was a leader in this moment, first unofficially and then officially, as we tried to open our eyes and hearts to the realities of our own biases so that we could root them out, identify our personal and collective strengths and weaknesses in working with non-white students, and transform our entire school system into one that provides an equitable experience for all students regardless of their race, ethnicity, or background.  If this very long sentence sounds intense, that's because it is.  If it sounds like it might make teachers uncomfortable, that's because it can.  But in the two and a half years while I was unable to work, we have made marvelous strides toward more open dialogue with students and, crucially, each other, about what it looks like to be a culturally proficient educator-- one who can make every student feel like a welcome contributor to the learning environment. 

     On Tuesday, I was honored to lead a professional development session which I'd previously designed and facilitated in 2012.  Over three years ago, every teacher in my high school saw what I had put together, as teachers and administrators worked with small groups to present scenes of actual situations that had happened at our school.  Audience members were then asked to enter the scenes as the teacher, and replay them so that the racially charged or sensitive comment was handled in a way that would make the person who said it, and everyone in the room, understand the power and potential damage in saying such a thing.

     This time, it was tweaked to include scenes that had happened at the middle school level, and my co-facilitator brought her energy and passion to it during all four of our 90 minute sessions, each of which was attended by the maximum number of teacher-- 35 in the room.  A culinary arts room better served for baking cakes than improvising how to respond when a kid blurts out a racist, albeit positive, stereotype about Asian students.  But we made it work.  We received marvelous feedback.  And I felt like, once again, I've taken another step toward being the fullest version of who I can be with these new lungs and the restored life I cherish each day.

     Was I exhausted at the end of the day?  No.  I was exhausted two-thirds of the way through it, but the adrenaline of improvisation and the passion I have for this topic kept me going.  A great reality check about my current physical limitations-- wrapped inside a chance to show my colleagues, many of whom hadn't seen me in over two years, just how far I've come. 
Our session was conducted in the culinary arts room... My wife works at the district too and took a few photos when she attended. Clearly I've mastered the clicker-- and my posture is better than ever. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I Found My Pills on Medicine Hill

     Once I returned home from the hospital, my primary concern was making sure I took my pills at the right time, in the right order, and didn't miss any doses, whether due to simply forgetting, or not having enough pills on hand.  The latter issue was a matter of long term planning, and I knew if I regularized when I refilled my pills, reordering them in a timely manner to ensure I never ran out would be no trouble.  To make sure I didn't just up and forget to take my pills, I set timers on my phone.  Six of them, to be exact-- at six, seven, and nine a.m., and then noon, six, and nine p.m.  These timers are an absolutely crucial part of my daily care, and I can't imagine how I would be able to take my meds at the appointed time without them. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Speech at the Vita Redita - University of Michigan Jack Roth Stadium Club, Oct. 24 2015

This is the link to the speech I gave at the Vita Redita gala on Saturday night.  It is a little over 12 minutes long.  Below, I have transcribed what I said during the speech.

     I first want to say what an honor it is to be asked to speak to all of you tonight on behalf of the Transplant Center.  Every time I speak about my transplant experience, it is for a different reason or for a different audience, and as I prepare, I always uncover new things that I'm grateful for.  Fortunately, I've had other opportunities to speak publicly about how grateful I am for my wife, my mom and dad, and my mother-in-law, all of whom have been instrumental in the journey I have been on.  So tonight with you, I can focus on how the transplant center here at the University of Michigan has restored my life.  But before I tell you about those expereinces, I'll give you a glimpse of who I was before the phrase "lung transplant" came into my life.

     Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I was fortunate that cystic fibrosis had no noticeable detrimental impact on my life.   For those of you who do not know, cystic fibrosis is an illness that is something your born with, it's genetic, and it affects primarily your lungs and your digestive system.  And for a lot of kids, as they grow up, they are hospitalized very frequently with illness that need to be handled in the hospital.  Throughout my childhood, my parents took very good care of me, taught me how-- what it meant to be a good patient, and always do what the doctors told me to do, so that I could take care of myself.
      When I was in 10th grade, knew I wanted to become an English teacher and so I chose to go to Eastern Michigan University- partly because they have a good teaching school, partly because they gave me a full academic scholarship, and partly because of my doctor in Flint was transferring me and my care to the University of Michigan adult CF clinic with Dr. Simon.
     In 2004, at age 21, I experienced my first hospitalization, because of a severe pneumonia in my right lung.  This is when the reality of cystic fibrosis was entered my life, but it did not take center stage.

     Just a month after the hospitalization, I was off supplemental oxygen, my wife and I had our beautiful wedding that we'd been planning for months, and that fall was hired into my dream job, teaching American Literature to 10th graders.
     Over the years, I occasionally dealt with illnesses, and whenever those arose I listened to my doctors, and I worked through things, and knew I was in the best possible hands.  Cystic Fibrosis is a chronic, progressive illness, so although I knew on some level that things were getting worse, I was still living a full life, so it was easy to put aside what the future could potentially hold and focus on the "now."  This was especially true in 2008, when my wife gave birth to our son.
      In February of 2013, I was hospitalized and assumed I'd just bounce back like I always did.  Instead, the phrase "lung transplant" not only entered my radar, it became the brightest blip on my screen.
      Once this happened, Dr. Simon gradually handed my care off to Dr. Tammy Ojo.  This was difficult, because after 15 years, he had become like part of my family.  He doesn't know this yet, but a month from now, I'll be at his house for Thanksgiving.  Don't worry, Dr. Ojo, Christmas is at my place, so we're good.

     I transferred all the trust I had in Dr. Simon to Dr. Ojo, and she and the transplant care team fully informed me regarding what I would need to know and how I would need to prepare both physically and psychologically for this intense surgery. I have a friend who is another success story to come of out the University of Michigan transplant center, and he was there to help me process this new reality all throughout.  But, like any major life event, you can't really know how things will go or how you'll react until it happens.  
After being on medical leave from work, 19 months on supplemental oxygen, and 13 months on the transplant list, I received the call on Aug. 20, 2014. I arrived at the hospital around noon and immediately was put at ease by the excitement people were expressing as they functioned like a well-oiled machine to prep me for the operation.

    The surgery itself took 16 hours, during which Dr. Jules Lin removed both of my lungs and then replaced them with the lungs from my donor.  It doesn't matter how many times I say that, it still has a surreal quality to it.  Perhaps that's because the transplant center does things on a daily basis that were impossible when this stadium was built 88 years ago.

     Like any recovery process, mine had its ups and its downs, but there was one constant: that was the abiding trust that I put into doctors, the nurses, the respiratory therapists, the physical therapists, the pharmacists, the social workers-- everyone who was there to help me recover. If we had a question, or concern, it was answered.  There was never any doubt that we were being taken care of by people who were completely invested in my success and well being.

     Less than three weeks after the surgery, I was able to return home.  My wife went to get the car, and I sat outside the hospital-- and  I realized the last time these lungs took a breath of fresh air, they were inside another human being.  At that moment virtually none of the blood in my body was actually mine-- during the surgery, I'd been given four times the amount of blood in a person's body.
I was quite literally a different person than who I was when I'd arrived at the hospital just 20 days prior.  But one thing that hadn't changed was that I would still be a good patient-- this was the start of a much longer journey, and maintaining my health would continue to be a group effort.
     In the early months, I relied heavily on the transplant care team while at home.  They had done a fabulous job of preparing me for taking all of my new medications, but more importantly they assured me that there was no such thing as a silly question.  In those first days, I spoke to my transplant coordinator Cathy more frequently than my own mother.  Even just a few weeks after the transplant, I was feeling better and breathing better than I had in years.

     This brings me to one of my favorite transplant stories.  Last spring, my nephew had a birthday party, and it was an outdoor party, and my son-- seven years old, was too busy having fun with his cousins to realize that he wasn't holding on tight enough to the string on his helium balloon.  So all of a sudden, a strong breeze comes along, takes the balloon out of his hand, and it starts to float-- I see that as my opportunity.  So I took off running as fast as I could go,  and just before the balloon was taken off into the sky forever, I snatched the string.  Thanks to the University of Michigan Transplant Center, I can literally run like the wind.
     One of my other favorite stories is that when my son was planning his 7th birthday party, he had one question for Dr. Ojo... he came with me to one of my appointments, and he wanted to have an ice skating birthday party and he asked Dr. Ojo, "Can my dad ice skate?"  It's a little bit like that old joke about "Can I play a piano" because I can't ice skate, even before the surgery... but I was certain that she would say no, because I have, you know, metal in my chest, and I'm not supposed to lift more than 30 pounds, and I was just, I, didn't even expect the answer to be 'yes' whatsoever, so I didn't prepare my, my son for anything, I just figured she would tell him 'no' and she could be the bad guy.  And to my surprise she said, "Of course your dad can skate at your seventh, seventh birthday party."  So in fact, I did skate at my son's birthday party, despite my trepidation, and there's some, a lovely video of that, me doing it, but, it was, ah, one of the many things I thought I'd never do, and it's all because of the U of M transplant center.
     This summer, I had one of the best experiences of my entire life, volunteering on Carnival Day at Camp Michitanki.   It all started when I received an e-mail, and the email went out to Gift of Life volunteers and asked if anyone would like to volunteer and perhaps come dressed as a clown.  So I responded to the email politely, and I said, "First of all, nobody likes clowns... and second of all, I dress up as Spider-Man occasionally at school, when it applies to Halloween, or somehow I tie it to the curriculum, or I don't have anything else that's clean in the closet.  But, I did go to Camp Michitanki as Spider-Man.  And, I think it is probably because, yeah, see, see.  I think it's because Peter Parker hasn't gained a single pound since he was created in 1962, and I've gained 40 pounds since last August, that, not a lot of the kids I interacted with, in fact only one kid believed that I am actually Spider-Man, but do you know what that means?  One kid believed that I am actually Spider-Man.  There was something even more special in store for the non-believers.  There isn't an English word to capture the emotion I felt, dressed as a super hero, leaning over to a kid who has experienced something no child should deal with, and seeing the expression on the his or her face when I'd lean over and whisper, "You know, I had a transplant too."
Because of the University of Michigan Transplant center, I was able to return to my career this past fall.  I have eased in by returning to teach part time, and was assigned to the middle school, rather than the high school where I worked for ten years.  Right away it was apparent that teaching kids who are 12 going on 13 is a little different than teaching kids between who are about to get their driver's license.   

      As I prepare to close, I'd like to share an example of that with you.  One of my seventh graders gave me this note.  Like all notes the middle schoolers have given me, there is a large picture of me on it.  I know a lot of you can't see it because that's because I don't want you to... he either gave me a lot more facial hair than I really have, or I just ate a box of Oreos.  I don't know which.  I asked him yesterday if it was okay if I shared some of the letter with you and he gave his approval.  It reads,  "Dear Mr. Green - thanks for making English Language Arts fun.  I like your hospital story.  It was cool."  And Josh is right.  My hospital story is cool.  Cool enough that there should be more stories like it.  And that is ultimately why we are here tonight.
     If someone had asked me five years ago, "what would you give for a second chance at life?" I'm not sure I would have known how to respond.  But now I know the answer.  I would give up two and half years of a career that I am deeply passionate about.  I would give up three months of being able to drive.  I would give up sleeping in on weekends in lieu of waking up to take medicine at 6 and 7 am every day.  I would give up being able to mow the lawn due to potential infectious fungi found in the grass.  If you ask my wife, I gave up that last one a little too willingly.

     I recognize that I stand before you today because in the face of the worst loss imaginable, amidst intense heartache and grief, a family chose to look outward and give.  The University of Michigan Transplant center made certain that  that gift has had an immeasurably positive impact on my life, and the lives of others.  Tonight, we have gathered to answer a slightly different question: "How much would you give to give someone else a second chance at life?"  I know I speak for everyone affiliated with the transplant center and all the Camp Michitanki kids, when I say that we hope your answer is, "More than I anticipated when I left my house."  Thank you.


Friday, October 16, 2015

A Detailed Glimpse

I wrote this to help promote the Vita Redita, a fundraiser held annually by the University of Michigan to raise money for the Transplant Center. It is now sold out!  I am so excited for this opportunity.

What follows is a more detailed account of some of the more memorable moments during my recovery:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Never One to Turn Down Seconds

     Now that I am almost 14 months post-transplant, the calendar doesn't have any "firsts" for me, but "seconds" are just as wonderful on this journey as they are during a fabulous meal.  The first holiday related tradition that I've now done twice is walk around Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum during "Halloween Nights," where the park, typically only open during daylight, allows families to stroll the grounds, get treats, eat cider and donuts, and see semi-spooky things along the way. 

     Last year when I went, I was much more immunosuppressed, quite concerned about the crowds of people giving me an infection, and nervous about inhaling the synthetic fog used to increase the Halloween atmosphere.  While all of those issues still drifted though my mind at some point this year, they were crammed way to the back, and I could focus on enjoying a Star Wars themed evening with my wife and son.

     As you can see in the photo, my bald faced, glasses wearing Wookie isn't nearly as menacing as Boba Fett.  But we probably had equal amounts of fun!

     As I look forward to the upcoming holidays and the traditions they bring, I am eager to pile as many "seconds" onto my plate as possible. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"The Perfect Shot"

     My son led me into his room, telling me to close my eyes.  He then asked for my phone.  I could tell he was up to something, but wasn't at all sure what it could be. This "close your eyes, I want to surprise you with something" bit is a fairly common one in our home, as my son relishes pranks, tricks, and scaring people just as much as he loves setting up a Lego scene and revealing it to my wife and I.  So it was difficult to know what to expect.  My son walked me "in to position" as he said, and when I asked why he wanted my phone, he said it was to take a picture.  As I handed him my phone, he said I could open my eyes.
     I found myself standing between his bunk bed and his rarely used chalkboard easel.  He told me to look down, and on the front of the chalkboard, and from my upside-down perspective I saw what he had written: 

                            My Dad

     He beamed with pride as I looked at him, but only for a moment, because his face quickly changed to a look of intense focus as he held the camera up to get "the perfect shot."

     Moments like this remind me of how lucky I am, but also make me wonder-- would I appreciate little situations like this is not for the transplant?  Would I have been able to recognize how precious this little occurrence is had I not experienced the nadir and subsequent dramatic improvement of my physical health over the past two years?  I like to think I would, but I'm just as content never knowing the answer, as long as I can keep having these moments and recognizing how wonderful each of them are.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Many Happy Returns

    After such a strong run of blogging, usually five days a week, the reality of teaching-- albeit part time-- while trying to write a book / blog hit last week: no updates at all. But, as I dive into the curriculum of 7th grade English Language Arts, I am going to recommit myself to this blog, especially writing the remaining segments of what will be the book I hope to publish for people whose lives have been impacted by Cystic Fibrosis.

Friday, September 25, 2015

One Year Bronch

     Here is a "live" blog of my one year bronchoscopy experience, the last routine bronch I will need! 

9:38 am - Checking in, I'm asked if my visit today is accident related.  Does an accident of genetics count?

9:45 - I am measured at 64 and a half inches. Did I grow?  Post-transplant steroids, perhaps?  Whatever the case, every half inch is important when you are a short person!

9:47 - My pulmonary function test (PFT) starts out with a lower than I'd like number (83% FEV1) which is normal for me. I typically add ten percentage points to what I score in the first run.  Which is exactly what happened this time- my final effort was a 93%. Very nice. 

10:11 - My wife and I arrive down the the Medical Procedures Unit. They confirm that she is my driver since I won't be allowed to operate a vehicle for the rest of the day. 

10:24- IV is in. No matter how many times I've had an IV put in, I can never look at what they are doing. Same with standard blood draws. But I can access my own chest port without a problem. I think I have an aversion to veins being stabbed more than just needles in general. 

10:30- I am so glad I am not a hairy guy as the electrodes are stuck to my chest. One less thing to deal with. 

10:32- I read and sign the form saying I understand the risks of the procedure. It reminds me of how often we sign stuff without really reading it. This form warns me that "death" is a possible outcome from this procedure (infinitesimal though it may be), so this is slightly more important than an iPhone OS update user agreement. 

10:37 to 11:24 - Nap!  The doors open, noise is pouring in from all the hallway traffic, and the lights are on, but I don't let that stop me!

11:26 - I'm wheeled to the room where the procedure will take place. 

11:32 to 11:36 - I inhale an analgesic through a nebulizer to numb my throat for the procedure and overhead a conversation between the two doctors about a patient with lymphoma. Of course, they don't violate HIPPA, but I do get to hear firsthand how medical professionals engage in debate over the best course of treatment for someone. Balancing immediate patient comfort with long-term health concerns sounds difficult to navigate. 

11:45- My pillow is taken away in favor of a piece of foam which gently thrusts my head back to make access to my airways easier.  The doctor gives the order to send the sedatives through my IV. 

11:46 - I'm out. 

Not sure when? - I remember moving from the procedure gurney to the movable one. Vaguely. 

12:51 pm - I wake up from the sedation and, after a few minutes, I'm able to remain conscious enough to have them tell me the initial results of the bronch. (Looks pretty good).

1:17 - An X-Ray to confirm my lungs don't show any visible reason to keep me around is done. No need to tell me what positions to stand in, X-Ray tech-- I've got at least a hundred of these under my belt. 

1:25- X-Ray looks good and the IV is out!  I can leave and go eat-- not being allowed to have breakfast is pretty much the most annoying thing about this procedure. 

1:31 - Made some wonderful choices in the cafeteria- lasagna and garlic bread with sautéed veggies. And chips and a brownie. Enough to account for having missed breakfast. ;)

     When we got home, there was a package on the porch, and I had a hospital wrist band on-- just like the day I returned home after the transplant. I could not resist changing into the outfit I had on that day (well, the shorts are different; I outgrew the pair I wore in the original photos). Makes a pretty spectacular before and after, no?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Life Renewed"

    Yesterday in the mail I received the formal invitation to this year's Vita Redita, an annual fundraiser for the University of Michigan Transplant Center. I am honored to have been selected as the guest speaker for this year's event. 

     They have asked that I speak extemporaneously for about ten minutes, but I will be sure to post my planned remarks here on the blog once I write them. This will probably be the swankiest fundraiser I'll ever attend, let alone speak at, so I want to make sure I'm starting off with a solid foundation of what to say before I go improvising!  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

And Here is the Host of Jeopardy!

     As a teacher, one of my "things" was starting off the class each day with extra credit (.25 points for a correct answer) in the form of questions (well, actually, answers) taken from the page-a-day Jeopardy! calendar. It served as an excellent way to get all the kids focused on me, partly because I play the Jeopardy! sounds "This is Jeopardy!." And "Here is the host of Jeopardy!..." after which all the kids shout, "Mr. Green" at a reasonable volume. 

     I was finally able to resume this tradition, 948 days after the last time I was greeted with a chorus of teens yelling my name. The calendar arrived yesterday, and I was so grateful to have yet another thing "back," something that, without my donor, donor family, my own family, and so many amazing medical professionals, would have never been possible.

     I asked my wife to take a picture of me holding the calendar like Rafiki holds Simba in The Lion King. Yet another circle completed, and so many new horizons to behold. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Beyond Four Walls

     One of the suggestions I received repeatedly from former students about how to approach teaching 7th grade was, "Have class outside!"  So today, we did. 

     To establish a strong foundation for our everyday journaling, we spent most of the hour outside writing, taking advantage of the last full day of summer-- scientifically speaking.


     Ultimately I think the number of words written was roughly equal to the number of bugs played with / killed. It was worth a try!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Open House of Gold

     I continue to add to my list of "firsts" in my career (and potentially to the list of "first time for any teacher ever").  Tonight, I almost cried at Open House in front of the parents of about half my students.  I blame my lung transplant.  It's a funny thing, talking about my transplant experience, because I've done it so many times and for so many audiences that you't think I'd either A) know what moments might make me cry, or 2) not get emotional about it at all.  Usually, the latter is the case, but tonight, I was caught off guard when I got choked up because of how happy I was in that moment, to be doing a thing that most teachers (including myself in prior years) pushed through and said, "Well, I'm glad that's over."
     Earlier in the night, one of my new colleagues asked if I felt ready.  In my most braggadocios voice, I claimed that this and parent-teacher conferences are the nights I live for: seeing kids every day and educating them are not why I went into teaching-- it was because I love talking to the adults at Open House.  We chuckled at how silly I was being, and that was that.  The clock neared six and we all had to be in our rooms-- well, except for me-- I wouldn't see any parents until 6:25 since I only teach the one class.  

     When parents walked in, I did what I do every year at Open House.  I greeted them as they entered and then they answered a few questions written on the board (What is something you know about me?, What is something you want me to know about your child?, etc.) as people all filed in and got settled.  As everyone wrote, I announced that it was not okay to write "You had a lung transplant" for the "What do you know about me?" question, since that was probably the first story out of the kids' mouths at the dinner table that second day of class.  We all had a good laugh, and then I spoke for a only two or three minutes about the transplant.  With a mere ten minutes of time with these folks, I didn't want to spend too much of it on the Evin show.  They care more about what their kid's experience in the class will be like this year, and that's as it should be.  But as a I talked about going on medical leave, being on the waiting list, getting the call, all things I've told to individuals and crowds more times than I can count, I got to a part of the story I hadn't really told before, and before I knew it I was swallowing away a lump in my throat.  

     When I was on the waiting list, recovering, and especially when I was in limbo not knowing if I could return to my career or not, conversations with my wife (who is also a teacher) and colleagues often took a "I bet you don't miss this!" tact-- Open Houses, angry parent emails, ridiculous student behavior, parent teacher conferences where the ones you need to see the most don't show up, meetings (so many meetings!), standardized testing.  It's a long list.  I remember one particular conversation with Kayla, during the "limbo" portion of this past summer, and she told me that what I was longing for was an idealized version of our career-- that I'd been away from it so long that I was forgetting or ignoring what it might really be like to be back.  She did this, of course, to soften the blow in advance in case the decision was, "No, Evin can't teach again..." She's good like that.

     So, as I spoke last night, I told the parents that I was so happy to be back, even if it isn't at the high school, because there was a time when I didn't know if I'd ever do another Open House, or any of the other not-as-awesome-as-actually-teaching-the-students parts of the job.  I didn't think that would make me cry, but it almost did.  And the reason I became emotional is because I do actually like Open House.  And I did miss kids acting a fool, talking to parents at conferences, and even meetings (so, so many meetings!).  Because those parts of the job are the dross, yes, but they have to be sifted past to get to the gold.  When I realized tonight that what I was in front of me, an occasion that many, most, my old self, would have discarded was, for me, a piece of that gold-- one I was unsure I'd ever touch again-- I choked back some tears.  Then I wrapped up my opening speech before taking questions about what kind of writing kids would do and how much homework there would be.  In other words, it quickly became a completely normal Open House.

In the end, I'm really glad this all played out as it did, because now I know I'll need an entire box of Kleenex to conferences in October. ;)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

7th Grade Revelations

     It is not difficult to discern what a 7th grader perceives as "young" or "cool," or what he or she really thinks about you. At that point in life a child hasn't quite developed the filter that (some) kids (hopefully) attain by age 16 or 17.  Though I've spent less than ten hours with my students, they have offered me many indications of how they see me. Here are some examples:

     One said, "You are my coolest teacher, all of the rest of them have, like, really old phones."  It's worth noting that I did not have my phone out or anything, but had made a comment about writing on the Internet (such as in blogs) versus how to format writing for a class assignment. 

     One group wanted to know my age.  According to them I am somewhere between 30 and 37 years old. Not having any of them guess that I am in my twenties would have been a blow, if not for the fact that one of the lunchroom employees mistook me for an 8th grader the previous day. Either whisps of gray hair and full-on mustaches are what all 14 year olds are rocking these days, or being 5' 4" will always give me that "not yet an adult appearance."  

     No matter what the case, defining "what's cool" is not a one way street. One student was apparently very interested when I explained which app I used to put cartoon images of myself in my syllabus...


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Come Back Summer!

     There's nothing quite like having to miss teaching in order to attend a two hour session on how to give online standardized tests to make a teacher long for a return to the recently concluded summer vacation. As my eyes glazed over in the meeting, my mind flashed back to one of my favorite moments, and photos, from break.

     And then I had to "force" myself to focus on making sure I know how to help kids when their computer inevitably refuses to cooperate when they are testing in the few weeks. But, of course, I'd rather be doing what I did today than not be teaching.  And there's nothing stopping my son and I from having lightsaber battles in autumn!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

First Days...

     "Tales from 7th Grade" will probably become an ongoing thing as I blend "posting chapters for my book" and "sharing what's happening in the present day" going forward. Here's a bit about my first two days of teaching middle school...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Returns Accepted

     In the final analysis, last week was about as good as it gets.  On Tuesday, I was a teacher again.  Not that I wasn't one during summer school back in June and July, because, yes, I did teach Drama and Speech to fourteen kids for three hours a day four days a week for twenty days.  But, that was temporary-- a trial run-- and I wasn't even sure on the final day if it would be my last one teaching in a classroom.  For whatever reason, it was this week, teaching middle school for the first time in my career, that made it feel like I'd come full circle.  Not quite "home," but certainly where I'm meant to be at this point in my life-- the return that made this journey feel complete.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Pre-Transplanted Dad: Magic Words

I will have SO many stories to share in my next blog entry-- but until then, here are some thoughts from March of 2011.  Please enjoy them and thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Magic Words

They are called "magic words," but nothing really amazing or surprising happens when one says "please" or "thank you."  And it isn't exactly a magical moment when I hear students use these niceties, though I do appreciate it when a kid expresses gratitude upon receiving an assignment.  In some instances, the expression could very well be ironic.  Imagine it's near the end of 6th hour... a Friday-- do kids really mean "thank you" when a teacher chooses this moment to introduce a project or essay?  Suddenly, the weekend that was to be free from homework has become a Saturday and/or Sunday of hard labor.  Yet some students still say "thanks" as I hand out the sheets of paper that detail their weekend's demise.  Those who say nothing are probably better off for it.  If a student is considering saying a phrase ending in "you" in a case like this, "thank" probably isn't the first choice for what comes before it.  Maybe in those instances it is some form of magic that prevents a teenager's brain from allowing his or her mouth to utter something regrettable.

Actual situations like the one described above are rare, to be sure, and perhaps the "thanks" is as much a Pavlovian response as it is anything else.  But the other day, two students who had approached me with questions on an essay helped each other in the process of getting clarification from me.  I was struck by how, before returning to their respective desks, each one took the time to thank the other.  It was the sort of exchange that should be commonplace, and it made me long for the good ol' "citizenship grade" like the ones my elementary school teachers had at their disposal.  I personally don't know of any public high schools that have a mark for rating a student's civility, but an e-mail to each of the students' parents has a more personal touch anyway.  Since the unfortunate pattern of teacher/parent communication tends to begin when something is going wrong in the classroom rather than going right, it is always a pleasure to be on the sending end (and I'm sure on the receiving end) of an e-mail that says, "Your child is kind and polite.  In fact, earlier today..."

Though it will be a few years before I will have an opportunity to open such an e-mail, I have enjoyed witnessing firsthand my son's recent outburst of politeness.  Although he still often needs to be reminded of the existence of "please" so that his requests don't sound like demands, he has mastered the art of the "thank you."  He recently won his first-ever prize from a claw machine game, and he was quick to express his gratitude.  "Thank you veddy much box," he said, tightly squeezing his new purple teddy bear.  Last weekend, several minutes after we returned from buying groceries, he rushed over to me as though he had forgotten something.  He looked up at me, wrapped his arms around my legs, and said, "Thank you Daddy drive me blue car home."  In that moment, it was easy to see why they are called "magic words."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

7th Grade Evin

If the 25 minutes I spent teaching seventh graders today are any predictor of the rest of the year, everything's going to be just fine. The kids look pretty much like this-- me when I was 12...

Friday, September 4, 2015

And Just Like That, the Wait is Over

     Question:  Who has two thumbs, two transplanted lungs, and is teaching 7th graders this fall?

     Answer:  This guy!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Different Kinds of Waiting

     I've found that even though I already played the most epic Waiting Game of my life, waiting for other things post-transplant aren't necessarily easier.  I am currently waiting to find out if I will be teaching 7th graders this fall, or if I will be able to move back to my "professional home" at the high school where I've spent my entire career.  And, as silly as it sounds, this Waiting Game is in some ways tougher than waiting for "the call" about my new lungs.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Pre-Transplanted Dad-- "Resolute Beginnings..."

     While I am swamped with professional development and preparing to teach 7th grade for the first time, please enjoy this fitting entry from my previous blog. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Glimpse of Summer Fun

     As summer winds down (today is the start of Professional Development week for teachers in my district-- yay!) here is a video that effectively captures how great the past few months have been.

     It was my son's idea to use the blaster as a trombone. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Good Kind of Overwhelmed...

     Yesterday I received an email from the Events Specialist for the University of Michigan Transplant Center.  She had previously asked me to be the guest speaker at the upcoming Vita Redita, a black tie event to raise funds for the transplant center.  She had also asked to share my transplant anniversary Facebook post to the transplant center's official Facebook page.  Here is what her email said:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Different Kind of Transplant

     I am so happy to announce that I WILL be teaching again in the fall!  I am "easing in" by doing only one hour a day and my current placement is at the middle school level. So much for "easing in!"  I'm somewhat nervous about teaching an age group and curriculum I have no experience with-- despite a decade a teaching experience, I will be the "greenest" staff member in more ways than one. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

5 Unexpected Physical Changes Post Transplant

Here is a list of physical changes that have become a part of my post-transplant life. Most of them are unexpected and seemingly unrelated to having healthy lungs, based on my limited medical knowledge. If one of you is a health professional or a fellow lung recipient and wants to chime in on the list below, please do so!

1.  Dandruff

Prior to the transplant, I could have been the "before" guy in a Head & Shoulders commercial. Sometimes even my eyebrows would have dandruff. Gross, I know!  But post transplant, no dandruff at all. None.  

2.  Chapped Lips

Another frequent issue I dealt with before the transplant was chapped lips. Just like with the dandruff issue, despite using products to help, it was still a problem. But not any more, at all, ever. 

3.  Grey Hair

I've talked about this before, but it seems like, even though my mom went completely grey by age 35, the sudden shift between no grey (especially in my facial hair) and bunches of it seems too coincidental. 

4.  Noisy Breathing

For many years prior to the transplant, when I slept, I wild often make noises as I exhaled. Mostly these sounded like moans and groans-- I wasn't talking in my sleep or something.  Other times I would make chewing noises during my slumber.   My wife made a recording of it once to make me aware of how loud it was.  Since the transplant, I don't make any of those noises-- but now I snore sometimes... at least it's a "normal" annoying sleep noise!

5.  Leg Hair Disappeared... then Came Back!

During the span of several months, the hair on my outer calves of both legs completely disappeared and then came back in full force. It looked like I had deliberately shaved it. My wife noticed it one day, and I realized that I wasn't sure when it started. I know it wasn't an occurrence that immediately happened after the transplant, but apparently it gradually occurred over some period of time. I forgot to show my doctor at one of my visits and ask her about it, and by the time I saw her again about two months later, all of it had grown back. I asked her about it and she just shook her head. I get it-- what's the point in trying to solve unimportant hair mysteries when everything that matters about my health is going so well?  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Six Images Say So Much

The first three images are from a year ago, when I left my house after getting the call, a photo of me post-op, and the reaction I had to arriving at home after twenty days in the hospital...

The next three images capture my transplant anniversary:  placing a candle in the water off Mackinac Island in honor of my donor and his or her family, my son's drawing on the paper tablecloth when we dined at The Woods restaurant, and an image of he and I as we traveled to the island on the ferry. 

I am so incredibly fortunate and forever grateful for the life I have. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

This is a Picture of Progress

It's been quite a journey, and I think a huge part of the reason for how successful it's been has been my attitude. The picture on the left is from the first day I was fully awake and able to move to the chair, a mere four days after the surgery. 

One year down, many more to go...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


     On Wednesday, August 20, 2014, I got "the call."  And on Thursday, August 20, 2015, my wife, son, and my mom and dad will celebrate the year that has been possible because of the successful surgery that began that night and continued long into the next morning.  Our plan is to go to Mackinac Island, largely because that is a place my wife and I would go every year.  We understandably put that tradition aside for the past two years.  My mom and dad will join us for the first time; neither of them have been to the island in over 30 years.  We do all this in lieu of celebrating something meaningful in the life of my donor and donor family.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Worst Day of My Life (Now with Context!)

     Below is an e-mail I sent to some friends on Thursday, October 5, 2000.  I had been attending Eastern Michigan University for a little over a month.  The subject line was "My Worst Day."
      Yesterday, I woke up. That was my first mistake. In a comedy of errors, I was lucky enough to experience the worst day of my life up to this point, and I can't imagine any day being much worse. Although, that's what I kept saying yesterday, figuring the day could only get better after each setback.

Monday, August 17, 2015


     Typically when my son says, "Let's race," I do, because what better use for these new lungs than seeing if I can get to that tree up ahead faster than my seven year old?

     But yesterday it was I who initiated a contest when I saw a web-like section of the play structure near the beach by our campsite. "Do you want to see who can climb to the top the fastest?"
     "Sure, Dad."

     Clearly I lost, but when I compete with my son, I always feel like I'm victorious. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

It's the Climb...

I can't believe I just referenced a Miley Cyrus song...

Anyway, never grow up!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

Rink Rats

     I was apprehensive when my doctors approved me to ice skate a few months ago, based on the fear that if (more like when) I fell down, it would hurt my still-not-as-strong-as-it-could-be upper body as I braced my fall and subsequently got myself back up.  But my son's ice skating birthday party gave me a chance to face this fear and skate with him for the first time ever.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Six Going on Seven

     Imagine that you just turned six years old.  Your dad has been dragging a tube around everywhere he goes in the house for over a year.  Whenever he leaves the house, he carries a noisy backpack.  The tube goes in his nose and it helps him breathe.  You know he goes to the doctor a lot and needs new lungs.  You're pretty sure Dr. Simon is getting them from Argentina, but when you say that, Dad explains that Dr. Simon is helping, but he isn't getting them from another country.  Almost exactly two weeks after your birthday, that "call" that you've heard Mom and Dad talk so much about comes, apparently-- first your grandmotherly neighbor and, later that day, your actual grandmother, stay with you after Mom and Dad leave.  Dad gave you an extra long hug and seemed like he might cry before he left.  Grandma tries to play video games with you but is really, really bad at them.  Mom didn't come home that night, or the next night, and that was okay, even though you hadn't been away from her for that many nights before.  Grandma lets you have pretty much whatever you want, because Dad's in the hospital getting his new not-from-Argentina lungs, and Grandma usually lets you have whatever you want even when it isn't a special circumstance.