Before Nick Kanaan was even born, tests from his mother’s amniotic fluid determined Nick had cystic fibrosis, an inherited disorder that had already claimed two of his sisters’ lives, and would leave Nick fighting for his own life in 2019.
Throughout the years Nick managed the disease with daily medications. Then in October 2017, Nick started having difficulty breathing and was hospitalized for two and a half months. Although he would eventually be discharged and in stable condition, Nick’s lungs would never fully recover.
Gasping for air
Fast-forward. January 2019. After more than a year of regular check-ups, tests have determined Nick’s lungs are steadily declining, and he is desperately in need of a lung transplant.
Nick would keep taking his daily medications, hoping to find a match before his lungs got worse.
But before long, Nick caught a lung infection. He would spend several nights coughing up blood at home before being hospitalized.
Time was slipping away. And so Nick was transferred to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) — the only hospital in B.C. able to perform a special surgery that would buy him vital time.
A life-saving bridge to surgery
At VGH, Nick was placed on ECMO, a portable, donor-funded, heart-lung machine that oxygenates the blood and reinfuses it into the body, essentially taking over the role of breathing and allowing Nick’s lungs to rest.
The procedure was a success, buying precious time while Nick waited for a lung donor.
Three and a half weeks later a match was found.
Dr. John Yee of VGH performed the double-lung transplant. Nick awoke two days later, breathing on his own with a new set of lungs.
Following his surgery, Nick’s recovery was guided by teams of medical experts at VGH.
“Recovery after the transplant was one of the – if not the – most challenging parts of this journey,” says Nick. “I essentially had to learn how to move every part of my body, I had to learn how to breathe, I had to learn how to eat, I had to learn how to stand, sit, walk. This was painful and exhausting in every way.”
Today, Nick is nearly back to living his normal life. He still has to take it slow and he can’t lift heavy objects, but he can safely chase his nearly three-year-old daughter, Ameera, around the house.
“For the first time in my life I laid on Nick’s chest and I listened to him take in these deep, wonderful breaths,” says his wife Lindsay. “I can’t describe that feeling.”
Honour your Angel
We all have Angels in our lives. Join Nick in honouring your Angel this holiday season.
Your donation will help fund the most urgent needs of our health care system, providing the best and most specialized health care for you and your loved ones when you need it most.
Learn more at vghfoundation.ca/angel-campaign.