Alberta mom fully recovered after ‘miracle’ double-lung transplant surgery


It was just a routine gallbladder surgery for Edmonton’s Brenda Kinnear. However, it was that surgery that changed her life forever.

The mother of two boys in their late 20s and early 30s left hospital after that surgery on oxygen. A few days later, doctors warned her that she had end-stage idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

In November 2002, she was put on a double-lung transplant list and she waited for five years, but doctors had a hard time finding a match for the mother, a four-foot-11 woman who was in her 50s.Brenda Kinnear

As she needed a set of lungs that were from a 12-year-old child, her two sons — Darryl and Shannon Kinnear — offered to each donate part of their lungs to help their mother.

“Our sons spoke to the doctors and surgeons and basically told them that they were going to be my donors,” said the mother who also had offers from her husband to donate part of his lungs, along with two other relatives.

“Their mindset was that Mom needed Dad sitting beside her — not lying beside her. The also chose which side they wanted to donate. Daryl — being the oldest — asked which side is first; the right. He is my right lobe. Shannon wanted to be closest to my heart. He is my left lobe. Remember — I am not getting a full set of lungs — just lobes.”

It has been close to 10 years since the surgery and the mother says she can now breathe easier.

“If you had asked anyone who knew me 10 years ago if I’d ever be able to travel outside of Edmonton, let alone Canada, they would have laughed at you,” said Brenda Kinnear.

“So if you see me out and about, feel free to talk to me about transplants. If I’m hunched over trying to catch my breathe, just wait a few moments then I’m back and ready to go again. My husband and I love to talk about my miracle. “

Stay tuned to in the next few weeks ahead to learn more about this amazing family.

Let us know what you would do if you could breathe better? Share your stories with us! 

Alberta woman looking forward to gardening again after double-lung transplant surgery

Joanne Cormier, a double-lung transplant recipient from Willingdon, Alta., says her life has already changed for the better.

It has only been a couple of weeks since her complicated, life-saving surgery, but Cormier says she is relieved that she no longer has a large bottle of oxygen attached to her 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

“I feel great — I feel 100 per cent better than I did before,”said Cormier who battled with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for four years leading up to her surgery in April 28, 2014.

COPD is an illness that slowly damages a patient’s airways — breathing tubes that carry air in and out of their lungs. The illness makes causes those airways to swell along with causing mucus to block those airways. COPD also damages tiny air sacs at the tips of those airways, which makes breathing extremely difficult.

The mother of two says her illness was caused after working as a waitress and bartender in a second-hand smoke-filled bar for more than 30 years.

Now, after her life-saving surgery, Cormier says she is grateful. She can now breathe easier.

“There are no words to describe my thankfulness (to the lung donor’s family),”said Cormier.

“What do you say to someone for that great of a gift? A thank you is just not enough.”

Cormier, who is still recovering in hospital after the surgery, says she is looking forward to playing darts again — something that she couldn’t do before the surgery — along with doing some gardening.

“I haven’t been able to do that in the past few years, so that kind of bothered me,”she said.

“I am hoping to have some kind of summer left when I get out of (the hospital).”

Since lung transplant patients have to spend long months before, during, and after their surgeries in Edmonton — including those who come from outside of Alberta’s capital city, like Cormier — the Lung Association, Alberta & NWT (TLA) offers some financial support to those patients and their caregivers.

That financial support is paid for by TLA’s generous supporters.

“I was given a $1,000 grant, and (TLA) gave me $600 to help pay for my rent in outpatient residence, and I was given $200 in food and $200 in gas so I can get back and forth,”said Cormier.

“This took a weight off my shoulders.”

To learn more about TLA’s Second Breath program, click here.

An Alberta double-lung transplant recipient has his ‘freedom back’


David Wheadon can now breathe easier after a successful double-lung transplant surgery.

The 55-year-old millwright worker was diagnosed with emphysema in 2002 — a chronic long-term disease that damages tiny air sacs inside the lungs making it hard to breathe.

Over time the illness will get worse, as was the case for Wheadon who spent the last few years attached to oxygen bottles.

Wheadon says his condition worsened in 2008 when he “collapsed at work.”

“I was on 10 litres of oxygen (a day) just to move, just to walk, just to do anything in daily living” said Wheadon.

After his surgery in February 2014, Wheadon says it took him a long time to get comfortable knowing that he will no longer have an oxygen bottle attached to him 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Now, I don’t even miss it — there is no more oxygen bottles in my house,” said Wheadon.

“I have my freedom back. I can do anything — I can go up and down stairs with no problems.”

Before, during, and after his surgery, Wheadon was given some financial supports from The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT’s Second Breath program during his long stay in Edmonton where his transplant took place.

Some lung-transplant patients — many from all over Western Canada who come to Edmonton for the complicated surgeries — must stay in Alberta’s capital city for at least five months.

Along with offering guidance to those patients, The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT (TLA) offers some financial help for those patients with food, accommodation and fuel costs with funds raised from TLA’s generous supporters.

“They give you support just by talking to you,” said Wheadon about TLA. “They know you’re there if you need to call.”

To learn more about TLA’s Second Breath program, click here




Calgary resident Jennifer Anderson, a double-lung recipient, is ‘powered by breathing’


Jennifer Anderson’s life went through a dramatic change when she was 26-years-old.

She had just finished her masters degree at the University of British Columbia and had just recently married her husband. She was living a healthy, active lifestyle.

However, in 2006 — that same year — she was diagnosed with pulmonary embolisms. A year after that, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a terminal lung-related illness.

The illness causes blood vessels in her lungs to grow a thick lining, which means her heart had to work extra hard to push blood through her veins — a risk for heart failure.

“My whole life was turned upside down,” said Anderson.

“Not only was I on oxygen, but I was also on a drug called Flolan. It was infused directly to my heart 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. It was keeping me alive.”

Her only option to survive was to undergo a double lung transplant. As she waited for months as doctors were looking for a set of lungs for her, Anderson was confined to her two-bedroom condo in Calgary. She says walking was extremely difficult.

Now, after her successful surgery, she is urging Albertans to commit to organ donating as it saved her life.

“I am so grateful to be a double-lung transplant recipient,” said Anderson. “It is the greatest gift that I will ever receive.

Are you suffering from a lung illness? Share your stories with us! What would you do if you could breathe better?

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The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT is also encouraging people to talk to their doctors about taking a simple breathing test.

For more information, call 1-866-717-2673.