-by Anne Farries
Daniel “DJ” Timmons can laugh now, a change in expression for a man who was once too exhausted to smile.
The East Big Intervale father, 45, came home at Christmas with new lungs, transplanted after a bad gene ruined his own, turned him so weak that he could eat no more than a bite nor hold his grandchildren nor walk the quiet country road near his house.
“Least a fellow can breathe now, compared to before,” Timmons said Monday in his living room, where oxygen tanks, once his constant companions, were conspicuous by their absence.
Timmons has alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, an inherited disorder with symptoms that most often become apparent between the ages of 20 and 50.
In the early stages, the disorder causes shortness of breath, fatigue, and weight loss. It can also impair liver function in infants and adults. For smokers, the onset is earlier and more severe. Roughly one in every 1500 people with European ancestors will develop the symptoms. In people of Asian descent, the number is far smaller.
Timmons was waitlisted in July for a transplant at Toronto General Hospital. Then, in an 11-hour surgery on September 25th, doctors replaced his lungs with those of a donor, who is unknown to Timmons.
He said the new lungs give him no different sensation except that he no longer has to struggle to get air.
“It just seems to be natural, really,” he said. “I can’t explain it better.”
“I don’t have to worry about it.”
When Edna Chiasson, Timmons’ wife, was allowed to see him after the surgery, he no longer breathed by extending his abdomen, “belly-breathing,” she called it.
“When I walked in the room, his chest was going up and down the way it’s supposed to be,” she said.
Did she cry? “Yeah,” she said.
Timmons was on a ventilator for two days and remembers little about that stage. “I was so out of it, I don’t know,” he said.
Two months after leaving hospital, he had one episode of rejection. Fever and infection sent him back for intravenous steroids.
“They said everybody gets rejection once,” he said.
With that behind him, he is now concentrating on rebuilding his strength. He said he is not yet up to shovelling snow, but he can walk for about a mile.
For that, he and Edna thanked the numerous people who contributed to a fund that helped the family – Timmons has two children and three grandchildren – during their months in Toronto.
How was the food in the hospital?
“Oh, it was no good. I’m not going to lie,” Timmons said, and laughed.
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