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How Two Strangers Gave Me 8 More Years With My Dad

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

If you have ever dealt with the loss of a loved one, you know that grief is a long and painful process. The thought of memories and what could have been lingers for many years.

But what if somebody held the power to give you five more years with the person you lost? Ten years? Twenty?

Maybe they could have walked their daughter down the aisle or met their grandchild. Maybe they could have enjoyed more family vacations and dinners with friends. Made a few more memories to be remembered & cherished.

Now what if I told you that YOU hold that power. You have the ability to give this amazing gift to somebody that you have probably never even met. But this gift is only made after you can no longer use what you have to give. And what it means to that stranger’s family is unmeasurable and extraordinary.

At his initial diagnosis in 2009, my Dad was only given 3-5 years to live. He received two lung transplants in his lifetime that gave him complete rebirths. With the help of his two gifted lungs and many amazing doctors, he lived a full life until January 2022, 8 years past his most promising prognosis. I know he would want his story shared to inspire others to give this amazing gift of life.

When there were no options

2009 was the year that my whole life changed. My strong, courageous, and hard-working father was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). The man who loved and took care of our family was told there were no options to heal this deadly disease.

There was no treatment to reverse the damage, and the negative effects would only progress. He was given 3-5 years to live with a bleak outlook for his quality of life. He was just 58 years old.

What is IPF?

IPF is a disease that causes scarring of the lungs, which causes stiffness and makes it difficult to breathe. When you breathe in, oxygen moves through tiny air sacs in your lungs and into your bloodstream, and then on to your organs. IPF causes scar tissue to grow inside your lungs, making it harder to breathe.

The damage to your lungs from IPF is irreversible and continues to get worse overtime. Because of this, there is no cure for IPF. The negative effects continue to worsen and there are very few treatments to help manage the symptoms.*

At Lulu Tru we know the importance of lung health. Read our 11 Tips to Keep Your Lungs Healthy and Live Longer and start strengthening your lungs today!

Finding hope to give us more time

My Dad didn’t care what his prognosis was. He was determined to fight for his health as long as he could. It was becoming increasingly difficult for him to breathe, but he wanted to continue enjoying life. With little hope and no guidance, we began searching for our own answers.

After four years of looking and my dad’s symptoms progressively getting worse, we met with a team of Doctors who would consider taking him on as a lung transplant patient. We had a lot of questions, but it was one of the only options that could have a real effect on his condition. It was becoming very difficult for him to take a single breath. We knew we had to try something or he wasn’t going to make it much longer.

Although around 40% of lung transplant patients experience acute rejection, and the risks associated with the surgery included infection, severe pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), and blockage of his airway, my Dad decided to move forward. After a great deal of tests and appointments, he was cleared and added to the transplant waitlist.

This was the first time in four years that my Dad really had hope of helping him deal with the pain he was facing. He knew it was a long road ahead, and that many people pass away before they ever receive the organ they are waiting for. Watching his health continue to deteriorate was devastating, but the idea that there was a chance of him living longer invigorated and energized our entire family.

The Kindness of a Stranger

Waiting for the call was nerve wracking and terrifying. He finally got the call late one night and we all rushed to the hospital, but knew that even once we got there, they could still send us home empty handed. Thankfully, everything matched up the way it was supposed to and he received the approval for the transplant.

After several hours, my Dad had a new lung. A piece of somebody else was helping his body to breathe and function. Within 24 hours, the color returned to his cheeks that he had lost over the past few years. He was happier and able to breathe deeper, allowing for some good laughs as his friends and family came to visit him. His body responded very well to the surgery and he was up walking around shortly.

We were lucky enough to meet the recipient of the donor’s other lung while in the hospital. His name was Fred (pictured left with my Dad), and he also had a successful lung transplant.

The two Lung Brothers, as they called themselves, became quick friends. They bonded over their second chance at life and how they were going to make the most of it. They competed with each other while they recovered and kept the other motivated when things were difficult. They remained close throughout the rest of their lives, and our families became friends. Both Fred and my Dad always sent thanks to the stranger that blessed them with this priceless gift.

A Reinvigorated Life

Although he was by no means ready to run a marathon, or even run to the end of the driveway, this lung gave my Dad another chance at life. It allowed him to meet his youngest grandchild, enjoy his 70th birthday (pictured right), and celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with the love of his life (pictured below). He was able to continue collecting antique bottles, hunting for Morel Mushrooms, and taking care of his many varieties of hostas. He took every opportunity to make the most of the time he was given and spread joy and kindness to everybody he met.

In addition to giving him the chance to experience all those wonderful things, it gave our family many more years of creating memories, learning from him, and laughing with him. I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life and am so thankful to have had that extra time with one of the men that I respect and love the most in this world.

After about 3 years, my Dad’s body began to reject his donated lung. His sickness worsened until he was hospitalized with no discharge date in sight. With the guidance of some amazing doctors, he was able to receive a second lung transplant. Although he was now 4 years older and his disease had progressed, this second new lung again recharged him. He felt more clear, happier, and had more energy. I had yet another renewal of time with my fun-loving and patient Father.

Unfortunately, the lung transplants did not destroy the disease that was inside him. We lost my Dad on January 17, 2022, 13 years after his initial diagnosis. I have no doubt that without his two lung transplants, he would have passed away many years ago. Without the gift from those two strangers, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to cherish him for this extended amount of time.

If you knew my Dad, please feel free to leave a fond memory or story you have of him below in the comments! We are enjoying hearing how loved and how often he brightened somebody's day.

You can give the gift of life with an organ donation

I am eternally grateful for the extra time I had with my Dad. There is no way I can possibly repay the organ donors or their families. But I can pay it forward. That’s why Lulu Tru is proud to support the Lung Transplant Foundation and other organizations that raise awareness about organ donation. In addition to regular donations we make to this awesome organization, $5 from every Lulu Tru shirt sold goes to the Lung Transplant Foundation!

I have registered as an organ donor, and I encourage you to do so as well. When the time comes that you no longer can use your organs, you can save up to 8 lives and give an infinite amount of happiness to each of those families. To register as an organ donor, visit

According to the American Transplant Foundation, 107,000 Americans are currently waiting for life-saving organs. I know first hand how much an organ donation means to somebody, and that is why I choose to be an organ donor.

How can you help?

  1. Educate yourself and others on organ donation:

  2. Become an organ donor:

  3. Take care of your lungs! Read 11 Tips to Keep Your Lungs Healthy and Live Longer to learn how to start!

  4. Make a donation to the Lung Transplant Foundation

If you make a donation and want to honor my Dad, you can choose to write “In Memory of Dan Patterson” with your donation. We love seeing support from people that cared about him!

Dad will forever be missed and loved by his family. His smile and fun stories always brightened everybody’s day. To read more about my Dad, you can read his obituary here.

*For more information on IPF, you can visit the American Lung Association.

Have you benefited from an organ donation during your lifetime, either for yourself or for somebody you loved? Share your story in the comments below to help inspire and empower others!

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2 comentarios

Wade Weber
Wade Weber
29 abr 2023

I am a son of Dan's "lung buddy" Fred. We got another nearly 8 years with Fred thanks to the donor lung he shared with Dan. Our family is so grateful for the selflessness of a stranger and their family that made our miracle possible. We are also grateful to have shared in Dan's miracle and to have become bonded with such a wonderful family as the Pattersons. I was diagnosed with IPF the same day Fred passed and am now 10 months into my own lung transplant and am doing quite well. Again, thanks to the selflessness of strangers the miracles continue. God bless you and the rest of your family, Dawn.

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Megan Fisher
Megan Fisher
03 feb 2022

I loved walking through town and stopping to chat with Dan when he was sitting outside or gardening. He always had a story and was so happy to stop what he was doing and catch up with you. I'm so thankful for those two strangers who gave us so many extra years with him. I always admired his green thumb and his beautiful flower beds! He will truly be missed.

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