Transplantation means different things to different people. For Michel Grandbois, it meant over two decades of living and making memories with his family, and the chance to watch his children grow into adults and have families of their own.
Michel’s transplant story began many years ago, in the mid-1990’s when transplant science was rapidly advancing and knowledge around surgical technique, donor management, and recipient care was continually evolving. It was still the early days of transplant medicine, with many unknowns.
It was September of 1995 when Michel started experiencing shortness of breath. After extensive testing, he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that affected his lungs. He was put on the lung transplant wait list in January 1996 and began using home oxygen. The coming months brought repeat hospitalizations and increasing health challenges.
After just four short months waiting for a lung transplant, Michel was informed that he was being removed from the waitlist. Even if a donor lung became available, he was now too sick to survive the surgery. There was little left to be done. While doctors changed his medication and advised follow-up later in the year, his family and friends prayed and clung to hope.
This period of uncertainty was hard on the Grandbois family, including his three children. Michel required a scooter as he could no longer walk more than twenty feet without significant breathing difficulties. His wife Marilyn remembers this time, “His children, aged 10, 12 and 13 years old, enjoyed volunteering to move the scooter.” She adds, “In order to have enough stamina to go watch his kids play soccer and to conserve energy Mike would accept assistance with activities of daily living.”
Finally, in January of 1997 following reassessment Michel was once again listed for transplant. In June of that same year, everyone’s prayers were answered: a donor lung was available, and Michel underwent a successful left lung transplant. Doctors were honest with the family, making it clear that transplant was not a cure, but a disease within itself.
Despite this reality, Michel and his family treasured his second chance at life. For Michel, this meant doing everything in his power to honor and care for his transplanted lung. Marilyn recalls his diligence post-transplant, “His alarm on his watch would go off twice a day so he was on time with his anti- rejection medication. He never missed his frequent lab work and visits to the transplant clinic in Vancouver. Other specialists and ensuing appointments were added over the years.”
Michel took it in stride, grateful for everything. Marilyn says, “Yes, he did trade one disease for another and that presented challenges and stresses: physically, emotionally, and financially. Never complaining and optimistic Mike dealt with nasty side effects of medication and the health challenges life dealt him.”
Michel made the most of the time his lung gifted him. He taught his children how to change a tire and enjoyed spending time with them fishing, camping, riding quads, hiking, and geocaching. Family events were celebrations. With Marilyn in hand, he traveled the world, taking countless pictures of their adventures. One of life’s highlights was the birth of granddaughter, Teija.
In his final days, Michel and his family reflected on what his lung transplant meant to each of them, “Mike spoke in his last week of life that he chose to have a transplant for his kids to grow up with a father,” recalls Marilyn. “His children acknowledged that it would have been more difficult to lose their father as an adolescent or early teen than as an adult.”
Because of his donor, his will to live and the love of his family, Michel enjoyed another twenty-four rich and full years of life.
Michel passed away at home on September 1, 2021, with his wife Marilyn and son Eric at his bedside.
Michel was a long-time supporter of transplant research and gave regularly to support TRF. He knew firsthand the struggles that come with taking daily potent anti-rejection medication. His family hopes that research will mitigate the many side effects that accompany these drugs and that ultimately, the day will come where they are no longer needed. Help make their vision a reality.