WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
If you think you've had a tough time during the pandemic, consider David Terry.
He's the global director of strategy at advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, and on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, he had a double lung transplant at the University of Washington Medical Center. Three weeks later, he was released from the hospital but had to stick around Seattle, then the U.S. epicenter of the lung-destroying COVID-19 pandemic.
Terry needed new lungs after years of living with a mysterious illness that slowly scarred his own, rendering useless the tiny air sacs that transfer oxygen to his blood. Once a serious cyclist and all-around ripped athlete, Terry couldn't walk without oxygen.
Finding a lung donor is hard. Terry waited months before getting the call on Feb. 13, while watching The Kominsky Method with his wife. Her knees gave out at the news.
Now, four months out from the 13-hour surgery, where doctors basically cut him in half, stopped his heart, then restarted it, he can once again cycle up Larch Mountain (if you ride, you know how hard that is, even without major organ surgery).
Along with new lungs came some unexpected gifts, Terry says. "I had an edge before, and a hate and a bitterness and a cynicism that is not there anymore. It still creeps up, but I just take a breath, and it disappears. There's just not time for it."
And with every breath, he thinks of his donor, a man about whom he knows nothing, except that he was from Oregon and that his lungs happened to fit perfectly into Terry's chest. He thinks about the family who lost that man, and the pain they most certainly feel every day. The man saved others, too, because he checked the box to donate his organs.
The moral of this story? "Be a donor," Terry says. "I am a living, breathing, walking, running, cycling example of what that does. I don't know if the transplant has changed me into something that I wasn't, or whether the transplant has erased the shitty things about me that I never liked. I'm still finding that out. The kind of nastiness that I used to carry around inside me is gone. That in itself is an unbelievable gift."
And, he can breathe again. He appreciates every breath.