West Shore Barber Shop owner Mike Gravelle gives co-owner Sean Legras a trim. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)

Double lung transplant gives West Shore man second chance

Co-owner of West Shore Barber Shop grateful for every minute of the 16 years transplant has provided

Rick Stiebel

News Staff

The fact a family he will never get to know took a few minutes to fill in a form has let Mike Gravelle breathe a little easier for the past 16 years.

Gravelle, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was just 18 months old, was rapidly closing in on his last breath before he received a double lung transplant in 2003. “When I got on the operating table I was down to 118 pounds and my lung function was at 18 per cent,” said the six-foot-one co-owner of the West Shore Barber Shop on Goldstream Avenue.

According to Canadian law, recipients of organs are not allowed to contact the donor’s family, and the donor’s family are not able to know the identity of who they assisted, Gravelle explained. “I was able to send them an anonymous thank you card to express how grateful I am for the gift of life.”

READ ALSO: Transplant caregiver starts website for financial, mental health support

When he was diagnosed, the average life expectancy for someone with CF was about 30 years. Gravelle’s lung function was spiralling downward rapidly by the time he turned 23.

There was only one double lung transplant performed in Vancouver that year, and only a couple the year before, so Gravelle had no option but to go to Toronto for his surgery.

“Things have definitely improved and that’s great to see,” noted the 46-year-old Colwood resident. “There’s been more than 50 transplants a year in Vancouver the last couple of years. I’m able to lead a normal active life now. I’m very positive I’ve got a lot of years left.”

There isn’t a lot of data available on people 16 years post surgery, however, he noted. Although he must strictly adhere to a regimen of three prescriptions twice a day for the rest of his life, Gravelle says that’s a “small price to pay,” and he’s focused on the years ahead with his wife, Crystal Daigneault, his partner for the past 12 years.

READ ALSO: Simon Keith undergoes second heart transplant

Maintaining a positive outlook wasn’t always easy, he admitted, especially in the last two years before the surgery. “I always hoped for the best, but I had some dark times as well. I’m still absolutely overwhelmed by the support from the people in my hometown of Lake Cowichan and on the West Shore. They raised enough money to cover my accommodations and living expenses during the 11 months I had to live in Toronto, and I’ll always be so grateful for that.”

What’s extremely important to Gravelle at this juncture of his life is getting out the message of the importance of helping others through organ transplants.

“I hope anyone hearing my story signs up to be an organ donor,” he stressed. “I’m living proof of the difference a second chance at life can make. It’s an amazing way to turn a tragedy into a miracle for someone else.”

To sign up as a donor or for more information, check out transplant.bc.ca.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Three Greater Victoria schools claim climate awards

Awards handed out by British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association

Tips from BC Ferries for travelling this Canada Day long weekend

Tips from BC Ferries for smooth sailing this Canada Day long weekend

Field named for longtime Hampton Little League volunteer

‘Curt Waldner Field’ recognizes years of dedication put in by former little league dad

Saanich honours lifetime of conservation efforts

Mary Haig-Brown wins environmental award for 40 years of extensive volunteer work

Sidney lowers flag to half mast in honour of former fire chief

Mel Baldwin died June 21 at the age of 83; served Sidney Fire for 46 years

Video shows fireworks shot at swan in Alberta

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident in Grande Prairie

WITH VIDEO: Two endangered marmots released on Vancouver Island

With three new pups born in May, two more Vancouver Island Marmots… Continue reading

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

Four-year-old boy assaulted at B.C. soccer game

It happened at a weekend tournament in Ashcroft

Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Conservation officers trapped the cubs and transported them to a wildlife sanctuary

Heroism medal for B.C. woman who tried to save wheelchair-bound man stuck on rail tracks

Julie Callaghan awarded Carnegie Medal from U.S.-based foundation for ‘extraordinary heroism’

Most Read