Left to right: Drs. Gord Finlayson and John Yee; Willie and Michelle Dalagan and Dr. Hussein Kanji.

A major milestone for Willie

Reflecting back on the year since he had his double-lung transplant at VGH, Willie Dalagan is content, happy and healthy.

“The anniversary feels really good,” he says. “Looking back to when I got out of the hospital. I’ve done so much since with my wife and my kids because I have a second lease on life – I’ve made the most of it.”

He laughs.

“The fact that God spared my life means he’s not finished with me yet.”

During that tough time, when Willie was in the hospital and in the months following his discharge, there were many special people who helped the father of three and his family. In celebration of his crucial one-year milestone and to show gratitude to the amazing individuals who helped in his recovery, the Dalagans invited about 60 people over for a backyard Filipino dinner at their Vancouver home. A number of VGH staff who took care of Willie were attendance including ward nurses, anesthesiologists and clinical perfusionists including David Nash. Dr. John Yee, who performed the transplant, joined the festivities too.

“We held the dinner to say thank you to all of the VGH staff, the neighbours, the family and the church members for all that they did for me and my family,” says Willie. “There were a lot of people who helped us with things like dinners and just overall support. I wanted to say thank you to those special people.”

David, who was one of the perfusionists responsible for providing the long-term ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) support that kept Willie alive while he waited for an organ match, says it was great to see Willie and the family again.

“As a perfusionist, we’re always at the patient’s bedside so we got to know the family quite intimately,” he says. “We all remember Willie’s family because the kids would come in and play violin and sing at his bedside. It was quite touching.”

Referring to the party: “This was very rewarding because we rarely see people after they’re discharged from the hospital,” David explains. “It was really gratifying for us to re-connect with him and to see how well the entire family was doing since his major surgery. There were lots of speeches at the dinner and some of them were real tearjerkers, they really were. It was really heart-warming.

“This is part of the reason why I do this job – for moments like the dinner and seeing Willie healthy,” David adds. “It was so refreshing for me.”

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