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New Lungs, New Life: My Lung Transplant Story - Part 2



The first part of my story ended somewhere around the end of 2022. At the beginning of 2023, I battled to stay hopeful. My poor health seemed to be an ever-present cloud blocking rays of happiness from coming through. However, there were times when the clouds parted for rays of joy to shine through. Times such as Sundays in church when I would go in feeling low, yet leave feeling encouraged and reminded of God's great love for me.


In the midst of the chaos with my health, other wonderful things happened as well. My wife and I welcomed our dear baby boy into the world. I gained a promotion in work. Love and care from my church family held me up. My parents and sisters relentlessly prayed for me. Dear friends kept loving and praying earnestly for me. My workplace provided incredible support and flexibility which enabled me to continue working. Yet emotionally I was up and down. Some days I felt inspired to keep fighting. Other days I felt like giving up. 


As my condition worsened, my GP referred me to the palliative care team at the City Hospice. Palliative care at 33? I was devastated mentally. Surely the end was coming and fast. I just couldn’t see how things would come together quickly enough for me to be rescued from dying. I resolved to prepare myself to die well, as I could not see a way out of my predicament.



More hurdles

I needed to meet some requirements for a chance to get on the UK’s active national transplant list. Losing weight was one of those conditions. This was something I had never managed to achieve no matter how hard I tried. How was I going to do so in a few months especially now that my life depended on it? I was referred to a dietitian and went on a helpful ‘Eating For Life’ course for 8 weeks. I found information about intermittent fasting online and gave it a try. I cut out sugar, unhealthy drinks, snacks, gave up my beloved white bread, lowered my food portions, limited carbs and ate more vegetables and protein.



In August 2023 I had lost more weight than was required and met all the conditions required to get on the transplant list. However, there was a possibility that after reviewing my case, I could be considered unsuitable due to my illness progressing beyond my 'window of opportunity'.


Thankfully, on 24 August 2023, I received a call to say I was being put on the list. After the call, I thought to myself, it’ll probably be months before a match would be found for me. Even if a match was found, what are the odds I’d be given those lungs ahead of people already waiting on the list and in critical condition?


With only 5 specialist lung transplant centres in the UK and a waiting list of urgent cases, I was aware that I could die waiting for lungs like some patients unfortunately did in past years. It is quite common for patients to wait for months or years before getting a call to receive new lungs. According to information on the NHS website, “The average wait for a lung transplant in the UK is 18 months”. I had joined a transplant community on Facebook and from many experiences shared in the group, I expected it would take at least a few months before a match would be found and offered to me.


I was told to pack a case, ready and set to go to the hospital for my transplant surgery as a call could come in at any time. I thought to myself, surely a call can't come today or tomorrow; no need to rush, I’ll pack a case during the weekend.



Never say never

I was in for a shock. The very same day I got on the list, I was tossing and turning in bed at night. I knew I was worried about something. My wife had been at work during the day and also cared for our son afterwards. She was in a deep sleep. At 11:30ish close to midnight, a call came in from a number I hadn’t seen before. I stared at my phone wondering who would be calling me at this time of the night.


I picked up and in a calm voice, the lady at the other end said something like “Hello, my name is… please am I speaking to Mr Sonsare Zabadi? I’m calling from Harefield Transplant Clinic. We have found some lungs for you. Are you ready to come to London straightaway?” I paused. And then I mumbled a whole load of gibberish I can’t remember as I was full of shock. She calmed me down and I took my shallow version of a deep breath. I said I was willing to go but had not sorted out transport and she said don’t worry, an ambulance will be with you in 30 minutes to bring you here.


I was mind blown 🤯 OMG!! What!!??


I woke my wife up and told her I’d been called in. We cried, hugged and were thrown into a frenzy as I tossed clothes into a small case. I stared at our baby’s sleep monitor and began to cry like a baby. I was overwhelmed by the thought that as he slept peacefully unaware of what was going on, he may never get to see me again if the procedure was not successful. I left for the transplant hospital. At around 3am, I was told that upon further observation, the lungs were not suitable for the procedure to go ahead.


To be honest, although I desperately needed it, I was quite relieved that it was not going to happen just yet. I would be able to hug my son the next day, cover him in kisses and be better prepared mentally for the next call. From experiences in the transplant community on Facebook, I knew it was quite common for patients who had been called in for transplants, to return home a few times before their surgery actually went ahead. So I thought it might be weeks, months or years before another suitable match might be found and my 2nd call would come. 


I was in for another shock. The very next morning on 26 August 2023 between 5am and 6am, I was called in again! Another match was found and offered to me. I travelled from Cardiff to London and waited at the transplant hospital frantically pacing up and down as family and friends called in to pray with me and encourage me.


Around 4pm, the transplant coordinator who called me into the hospital came to say the procedure would most likely go ahead. Then in another 20 minutes later, she returned to say we were 100% going ahead. I was given a shaver to make my chest bare and other items to clean up. When I put on my hospital gown, it felt like I was in a dream. Was this really going to happen? Oh my days!!




Another Harefield transplant miracle

On that memorable evening of Saturday August 26, 2023, I was led into the operating room after a friendly team of anaesthetists gently lulled me to sleep to the vibrant melodies of Coldplay’s Viva la Vida. They literally asked me what song I'd like to go to sleep to. My brain froze. I looked at the computer screen and saw Coldplay. I like Coldplay so I chose them and Viva la Vida was the song.


For a span of eight intense hours an exceptional team performed a successful surgery to extend my life.


My chest was cut open in a straight line. My sternum was cut through. The lungs I was born with and lived with for 34 years were cut out. Healthy lungs taken from my precious deceased donor were stitched into my chest.


A life-saving gift without words.


It blows my mind that this has happened.




I opened my eyes the next day in the intensive care unit and was there for only 3 days. This is a place where patients could spend weeks or months or sadly pass away. I was so blessed to have woken up the next day and without nightmares or scary hallucinations which patients tend to experience.


On the recovery ward, I spent an initial three weeks and was able to limp around, a week after my surgery. My gratitude increased greatly as I spoke to other patients on the ward and heard their stories. I enjoyed chats with the nurses, doctors, chaplain and many more super kind and supportive staff at Harefield Hospital. I engaged in art classes on the ward organised by a lovely volunteer and on other days by rbharts. I discovered a new interest in stone painting. I had my bluetooth speaker which I used to perform an unsolicited DJ role on the ward, vibing and singing often to stay mentally strong.





Sonsare lives on!

My life on earth has been prolonged and my quality of life massively improved. I am a living testimony. I can’t possibly express how grateful I am. Recovery has been challenging at times and the months ahead are crucial. However as I write this, I’m alive and relishing breaths deeper and more invigorating than ever before.


Within 48 hours on the transplant list I had received 2 calls with lungs that matched me. I was breathless and dependent on oxygen support. Now I’m walking around freely. I can now take my son on long walks and actually enjoy the experience. I’ve enjoyed precious moments with my wife and son after the surgery which I very easily would not have had. I can now help out at home in ways I greatly desired to do but found very challenging due to my health condition. I have returned to work full time and can cope a lot better. I'm so grateful for all this.



I encourage you to cherish every breath.


I hope you gain perspective about what truly matters. For me, it’s being in a right relationship with Jesus and loving people the way he did. I cherish my faith in God a lot more now as I gained a deeper appreciation of His love through my suffering. Also, while I was recovering in the hospital, I reflected alot on the things Jesus said about death and life after death. I found great comfort and hope in his promise that I will live on after death because He rose from the dead and lives on forever.


I have a long list of people, institutions, teams and communities to give heartfelt thanks for their love, support and the many crucial roles they played along my journey towards and after my double lung transplant. My next blog post will be all about thanking these wonderful beings ♥️


If you live in the UK or in a country that has a donor register, please sign up for your organs to be donated when you die. I am here today because someone did and this precious gift of new lungs has massively impacted me, my family, friends and many more people.



Thank you for reading my story. If you liked it please tap the heart below or leave a comment.


To follow my journey, you can find me on Instagram @sonsareliveson.

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3 Comments


Guest
May 24

Words cannot explain how surprised and grateful to God for his mercies in your life.. God has shown you mercy and grateful for you for sharing your story. God bless you and your family.

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Guest
May 19

Sonsare!!!!! Birthday mate!!!! Wow! I bless God for another chance at life for you!!!! Indeed you live on!!!! You are one tough cookie. I wish you well!!!

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Guest
May 18

Wow… A miracle, God has better and greater plans for you. I am so happy for you and your family.

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