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Hillview man recovering after double-lung transplant

Lennie Critch giving a "thumbs up" right before his double lung transplant surgery.
Lennie Critch giving a "thumbs up" right before his double lung transplant surgery.

The well used proverb “third time’s a charm” accurately describes Lennie Critch’s quest for new lungs.

Lennie Critch.

The 48-year-old was diagnosed with a genetic lung disease called pulmonary artery hypertension (PAH) in 2010. The only cure - a double-lung transplant.
Critch is from Hillview, Trinity Bay. He and his partner Denise Avery and their daughter Kennedi were living in Shoal Harbour before uprooting to Toronto in November 2016, to await Critch’s transplant.
“The first time we got the call (that lungs were available) they called back a few minutes later saying the lungs weren’t good,” Avery said during a recent phone interview.
The second call came just days before Christmas.
“We went to the hospital. We spent 12 hours there. Lennie was prepped (for surgery) and ready to go in, but they came down and said those lungs weren’t good.”
Although the transplant didn’t work out at that time, Avery said, both she and her partner were calm during Critch’s short hospital stay.
“We were prepared for them to come back and say the lungs weren’t good. The third time (they got the call) we were calm but we were excited. We went to the hospital with great hopes that this would be the time for Lennie. And it was.”
Critch had his double-lung transplant in February.
“Lennie came through with flying colours. He spent about two weeks in the hospital. Now, he’s out walking every day.”
Avery describes the past year as “a roller coaster of emotions.”
While Kennedi keeps in touch with her friends back home via the Internet, Avery said, it’s not easy for her daughter, who is now 12, to be living in a one-bedroom apartment with her parents in a large city.
“It’s not like back home. The freedom is not there. She does get a bit scared sometimes, even when she’s out with us.”
While she said Christmas was good, Avery said being away from family and friends during the holidays was difficult.
“Christmas this past year would have been the first year that me and my three older children would have spent Christmas together in seven years because two of them are living and working out west. We missed them very much, especially our grandchildren.”
Avery said she is grateful that her family got to have Christmas Dinner with Critch’s cousin Terry Whalen and his wife Bernadette who live in Cambridge, Ontario.
Having family members – both those living in NL and those living in Ontario – come to   visit has also been helpful, Avery said.
Avery said Critch also gets support from other transplant patients who they’ve met at Toronto General Hospital where the surgery took place.
“Each one has a different story, with bumps along the road. They share their stories and that has been just amazing,” she said.
Avery said the care, professionalism and support from the staff at Toronto General was comforting and reassuring.
As well, she said, “Lennie always had faith that this would go great. We always had faith in everything. There’s only one thing he feared and that was he would become too sick and not be able to have a transplant.  He was amazing throughout all of this. Very strong minded.”
Critch will need to remain in Toronto for several more weeks. If all goes well, the family should be home in May.
Both Critch and Avery had to leave their jobs in order to make the move to Toronto.
The financial burden associated with Critch’s disease – both in this province and in Toronto – have been overwhelming, Avery said.
The family is grateful for all the support they have received over the past year.
“The financial support from home has been amazing. We don’t know what we would have done without it. And other support, just by people calling and being there for us, has been great.”
It will be awhile before Avery or Critch get back to work, meaning they’ll have to continue to rely on community support.
 “We have to find a rental (home) again and then, three months after we go home, we have to come back here again for Lennie’s six-month assessment. Then, three months after that, he has to come back for another one. Then, it’s twice a year.”
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Avery said her family would like to stress the importance of organ donation.
Organ donation is the most unselfish and courageous act someone can do for another human being, she said.
“We are so thankful to Lennie’s donor... For hundreds of people organ donation is the hope for continuation of life and a new beginning. Miracles do happen. Organ donation saves lives. It saved Lennies.”
Donations to Critch and his family can be made through Go Fund Me account https://www.gofundme.com/pqqd6s6c. Donations can also be made to “Lennie’s Transplant Fundraiser” at any CIBC bank or other bank by using account number 22-04711 and transit number 00573. The family is also accepting e-transfers to kdl.crave@live.ca
For further information on the Organ Procurement and Exchange of Newfoundland and Labrador or to have an organ/tissue donor card mailed to you call 709-777-6600 or toll free 1-877-640-1110. Information is also available at www.easternhealth.ca/Give.aspx?d=1&id=323&p=53

danette@nl.rogers.com

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