New York Marathon: All I need is the air that I breathe . . .
David Crosby is running the marathon despite having had a double lung transplant
Katie and David Crosby at the Rock’n’Roll Dublin half-marathon last August.
David Crosby was the eldest of five children. Now aged 42, he has one sibling left. Three died from respiratory problems when they were children – two in infancy and one when he was 11 years old.
The Meath man had always considered himself lucky to have survived the condition which killed his siblings, but, in 2015, he developed a persistent cough which soon revealed itself to be potentially deadly.
“In autumn 2015, I came down with a cough which I just couldn’t shift,” says David, who is married to Katie and has three children. “Initially, I tried to ignore it in the hope that it would go away, but it remained persistent and was particularly dry leaving me with tears in my eyes and a very heavy feeling in my chest.
“So I went to the doctor who put me on antibiotics, but he also sent me for an X-ray which revealed something the radiographers couldn’t define – they knew it wasn’t cancer, but said there was definitely something wrong.”
David, who worked in IT, was referred to the Mater hospital for further examinations and, when results came back, he was devastated to discover that he had an extremely serious lung condition.
“A lung function test gave me a reading of just 75 when the average should be between 80 and 120,” he says. “So I was sent for a biopsy and on September 29th, 2015, I was told that I had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) which was an incurable disease and would need a lung transplant.
About 1,200 people in Ireland are affected by this condition and the symptoms are cough and shortness of breath
“Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis is wear and tear of the lung, which is age related and happens as the years go by,” says Prof Jim Egan, consultant respiratory physician at the Mater hospital. “About 1,200 people in Ireland are affected by this condition and the symptoms are cough and shortness of breath. Older people are most at risk but treatments have improved radically over the past 10 years, so anyone who is worried should visit their GP.”
“This news blew my whole world up into the air – I felt like I had just been kicked in the gut and my wife and I just sat there and cried – as did my parents when I told them because we all remembered Ciarán who had died when he was 11, Regina when she was seven months old and Paul when he was two. We were terrified it was going to happen again.”
But the father of three says he was determined to be positive and, despite needing medication and being placed on a transplant list, his first priority was his family.
“My parents brought us up to be strong and I was determined to get through the ordeal ahead,” he says. “So Katie and I went on holiday with the kids as I wanted to make some nice memories – just in case. I had dealt with death before and knew that I would face up to it if I had to, but I was determined not to give up without a fight.
I was hooked up to it day and night and it was difficult, but I made the best of things
“I was put on medication immediately and, with that, told that I had to wear sunscreen every day for life as the medication reduces my immunity. Then I was put on oxygen and had to use it 24/7 – that was another very sad day as the sound of the machines reminded us all of Ciarán – of what we had lost and what was possibly ahead of us.
“I was hooked up to it day and night and it was difficult, but I made the best of things and having heard that fitness was important, I got a backpack and put the oxygen tank into it so I could walk every day – as far as I was concerned, failure was not an option.”
But despite his fighting spirit, David’s lungs were deteriorating rapidly and he was told that in order to survive, he would need a transplant of both lungs.
“In December 2015, I began to feel worse and was brought in for another lung function test which revealed that my reading had gone down another 12 per cent – this was very bad,” he recalls. “I was told that I urgently needed a double transplant, but in order to be fit enough for surgery, I would have to lose 2½ stone as my BMI was too high.
“This was terrible news, but I knew I had no time to sit around and moan, instead, I would have to take action.”
David lost all the required weight in just two months and was put on the transplant waiting list. Then without having time to adjust to the possibility of surgery, he received a phone call to say organs were available for transplantation.
“Four days after being put on the waiting list, I got a call asking me to come in for surgery,” he says. “I was totally unprepared and didn’t even have a bag packed – I hugged the family goodbye as I really thought I might never see them again and went off to hospital where I was prepared for the operation. But after several hours, it was decided that the transplant couldn’t go ahead as the condition of the lungs had deteriorated.
“So I went home again and this time I made sure I had everything arranged. Less than two weeks later, I got another call. I went off feeling a bit more confident and after being prepared for surgery, I was taken down to theatre, where I underwent a seven-hour operation. I was out of it for 24 hours and when I woke up again, I couldn’t believe that it was all over.
“I wasn’t in too much pain, but I had a problem with breathing as the whole concept of new lungs had caused a psychosis and I felt that they weren’t in sync with my body – but a nurse told me to focus on the ticking of the clock and before long I fell into a short sleep and when I woke up, I was breathing properly on my own – it was a success.”
A year and half after his transplant, not only is he fighting fit, but is planning on running the New York marathon
Since his operation, David has gone from strength to strength and although he was quarantined at home for three months, as soon as he was allowed, was up on his feet and out exercising in a bid to get in shape and make the most of his new lungs.
Now a year and half after his transplant, not only is he fighting fit, but is planning on running the New York marathon on November 5th.
“I was so delighted to be alive that I decided I wanted to acknowledge the doctors who had given me my life back,” he says. “So I asked if I could start exercising and once I got the green light to ‘go slowly’, I started training – firstly for a five-mile run which I did in November 2016 – eight months after my transplant – then a 10k a year after the operation, a half marathon this summer and eventually the marathon in New York in November.
“I want raise funds for the Mater hospital (see give.everydayhero.com/davidcrosby) in gratitude for everything they did for me and also to show my appreciation to my donor – I cannot put into words the enormity of the gift I have been given and although running the marathon with two new lungs is going to be very tough, I want to show them all how much I appreciate my second chance of life.”