With 2 donated
lungs, dad makes
it to the mainland
Gavin Maitland swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco with two transplanted lungs. Click image to enlarge.
THERE WERE FEW more inspiring headlines in the news this week than this one:
Escape from Alcatraz: Gavin Maitland’s swim back to life.
In 2008, San Francisco-area resident Gavin Maitland underwent a life-saving double lung transplant.
On May 12, he joined a group of about 10 others (including his two children) and swam the 1 1/2 miles from Alcatraz Island prison to mainland San Francisco.
For a break from all the bleak news in the rest of the media, watch a video of his story below the fold.
Caution: it’s a two-kleenex show!
MAITLAND, IN HIS OWN WORDS, told the BBC interviewer in Escape from Alcatraz: Gavin Maitland’s swim back to life:
“My disease was a type of pulmonary fybrosis… there is no cure. The only treatment is a lung transplant.”
Lung transplantation is an incredibly complex procedure, he explains, and patients are typically judged on their post-operation survival at various stages – one year, three years, and five years.
The website Buzztrick, where Maitland tells his story in his own words. Click image to enlarge.
“With me, I couldn’t breathe and I would think about [it] all the time.”
He explains his urgent desire to survive this way:
“My children at that point were very young … they were about six and eight … It just got worse and worse… the whole thing lasted about six years.
“[The doctors] said [to me] listen: You’ve got five or six months left; I had no choice if I wanted to survive.”
It has been five years since Maitland underwent his double lung transplant.
Now, apparently breathing normally and living a full life, he is grasping it by the horns.
We have something in common! (Although I still have the original pair of lungs, somewhat deteriorated because of my nicotine addition.)
The BBC, in a separate report Swim from Alcatraz: ‘My lung transplant dad is Superman’ talks to Maitland’s two children.
“… Zander, 13, and Riley, 11, talk about the swim and how their relationships [with their dad] have changed since the illness and transplant,” the report says.
“The worst thing I think probably was the cold … I mean it didn’t hurt at all, it didn’t feel bad, it wasn’t tiring – it was just being really cold,” says Zander.
“It looked a little farther than I expected,” says Riley. “So I was kinda scared for that.”
Gavin echoed something I have thought so many times when at sea.
“The vastness of the ocean is so magnificent,” he says, “I just love the feeling…”
The BBC report on the epic swim of lung transplant recipient Gavin Maitland. Click image to enlarge.
THE SWIMMERS WERE NOT ON THEIR OWN in the water: they were accompanied by wildlife, including sea lions – many of which I have seen while sailing off the coast of Southern California.
“I knew I could do it. I was a little bit slow. But I had been training for four months before that,” Gavin says.
Producer Anna Bressanin hit the nail on the head in the text accompanying the video:
“Five years [after the transplant] he swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco accompanied by his son and daughter – a feat that mirrored his journey back from the brink of death.”
If you don’t have the Kleenex all damp at this point, you must be less than human.
But wait! There’s more!
It goes without saying that Gavin Maitland is living on borrowed time. He has – perhaps more than most – realized just how precious and short the time we all have on this earth in this incarnation is, indeed.
His narrative ends with this statement of philosophy:
“You’ve got to take each day as it comes,” he says. “You’ve got to appreciate what you’re doing all the time. To do things that you enjoy doing; do things that you want to do.”
Does it perhaps ring a bell?
In case you passed it by, this is the meaning of this blog’s other name: In the now!
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