If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is why my wife needed a lung transplant.

That answer is simple: she was dealt an unfair hand at this game called life.

The other thing you’ll probably want to know are the non-simple answers, the questions everyone thinks but are too polite to ask when they see a 25-year-old on oxygen: was she sick? did she smoke? how long has she been on the list?

Yes. Absolutely not. Two years.

My wife has had pulmonary fibrosis. A rare disease that, over time, scars the lungs. Scarring on any organ is bad, but especially the lungs. The scarring makes it hard to breathe and stops the lungs from doing their job (putting oxygen in the bloodstream and throwing out carbon dioxide).

But all that is over now because she had a lung transplant.

It’s crazy to look at her walking without oxygen. She’s been in a hospital bed for three weeks, but she already looks stronger than she was before. Is this normal? How did we figure out how to do this? May God bless the donor’s family.

I’m terrified. Transplants don’t last forever. Sure, there are stories of people who had a transplant 50 years ago and are climbing Mount Everest and running marathons, but those are outliers. I can’t expect that to happen to us. It’s like buying a lottery ticket and thinking I’m going to win this because Cathleen in Indiana won a billion dollars last week. Most lung transplants, we’ve been told, last about six years.

Another clock on my wife’s life – and our relationship – great.

I don’t want to think about that all the time, but it’s hard not to. I’ll be 29, and she 31 in six years – that’s not very old! You’re tempted to do everything you possibly can now, but the road to recovery is long and full of potholes and speed bumps. Weekly check-ins with Stanford, 13 different pills and potions to take twice a day, some to prevent infection, others to prevent rejection.

Did we just trade one handicap for another?

I don’t think so.

Actually, definitely not. Sure, there are a lot of medicines, but being able to walk around a shopping center on a Saturday morning (without oxygen), coffee in one hand and the leash to our dog in another: priceless.

People would ask us before, “Where do you want to go after transplant?” I’d always say London. I’ve never been. I thought the extravagant trip after transplant was what getting it was all about. We’re off the leash! Let’s go see the world, take a cruise, visit the ocean, buy a house!

All those things sound fun – and probably are – but that’s not what transplant is about. I mean, it’s okay to celebrate – we should celebrate – but my wife didn’t get new lungs so we can galavant around Europe. My wife got new lungs so she could live.

Like the lesson most Hallmark movies try to teach, life after transplant is about enjoying and experiencing the little things in life. It’s about being able to hold hands as we walk down the street without curious on-lookers wondering why a young woman is wearing oxygen. It’s about being able to spend the night at my parents’ house in the mountains since the thin air isn’t a problem anymore. It’s about the evenings spent chasing our dog in the field as the sun sinks behind the hills. It’s about being able to kiss my wife goodbye without tasting plastic from her nasal cannula. It’s about no longer having to worry if she should hang out with friends or rest because she won’t feel well if she pushes herself too hard. It’s about being able to see and enjoy family in other parts of the country.

It’s about the little moments. Those that would be forgettable if my wife hadn’t been dealt the unfair hand she had. But that’s the purpose of trials in life, to make the triumphs that much sweeter.

It’s about the moments in life when I look at my beautiful wife and think, I love you. I love this. It’s about being able to live out (and enjoy) every day for what it offers, not what it doesn’t. It’s about taking a deep breath in (literally) and thinking this. is. living.


Every Friday, I send an email with insights, ideas, and stories from the books and articles I read. I promise you'll find something new and interesting to read every week.