Growing up, Darvy Culleton was told not to expect to reach his 30th birthday.
“From childhood I thought I was going to die by the age of 29,” he said. “That’s what we were told.”
Culleton was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and other major organs. By his late 20s his health had steeply declined and he was put on a wait-list to receive a double lung transplant. Months later, a match was found, and on December 19, 2006, at the age of 29, he underwent the procedure.
Culleton knows little about the individual or circumstances that provided him with his second chance at life.
“I know it was a young man who had passed away in a motorcycle accident,” he said, adding that he is thankful every single day and has not wasted a moment.
In the years following the transplant, Culleton has not only been able to breathe and walk again, he met his wife Megan, and last year the couple welcomed a baby girl.
The significance of Darvy’s transplant is not lost on Megan. It saved his life, transformed hers, and helped create their daughter Emily’s, she said.
“If it wasn’t for his transplant, we never would have met,” she added. “None of this would be happening.”
Last year the couple relocated to Powell River from the Lower Mainland. They are loving the slower lifestyle of the community.
“We moved up here specifically to raise a child,” said Darvy. “We just thought we’d rather live in a small town and slow our pace down a bit, and enjoy being parents rather than commuting.”
Before Emily was born the couple spent a lot of time volunteering for BC Transplant, something they hope to continue in the near future. Chief among their goals is educating people about the realities of registering to become an organ donor.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about organ transplant,” said Darvy. “Even if you think you’re not a candidate to be an organ donor you can still always register your decision that you’d like to do it. Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future.”
He points to a landmark example last month when surgeons in the United States performed what is believed to be the first kidney transplant from a living donor with HIV to another patient with the AIDS virus.
“Last year nobody with HIV would think they could be an organ donor, but all they had to do is register the decision that they’d like to,” added Darvy.
Megan said she and Emily, along with the couple’s extended families, are a small example of the ripple effect organ donation can ultimately have.
“It’s not just the person getting the transplant, it's the family members: the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters; it affects everybody,” she said. “We’re not immune to the fact that it’s because of a tragedy, that someone has passed away. But their final gift is an amazing thing. There’s no right way to thank a person for something like that. I don't know if there’s even a word.”
National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week is April 21 to 27. For more information, go to blood.ca/en.