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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Ojibwe man marks completion of five-day ‘healing walk’ from Hope to Saanich

Claremont Secondary students join celebration in Cordova Bay

MISSING: Saanich police search for 18-year-old last seen Sept. 9

Robyn Coker-Steel has short purple hair, frequents downtown Victoria

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Saanich police encourage safe driving habits as rain leads to pooling on roadways

Slow down, inspect vehicle ahead of driving in wet autumn weather

Voting now ready for Arts Alive 2020 sculptures

Audio and written descriptions posted for all 10 sculptures

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to call a provincial election for Oct. 24?

British Columbians will put their social distancing skills to the test when… Continue reading

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read