Kevin Przybyl, EMT with Mercy Flight shares his story of waiting for and finally receiving the gift of life.
I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth. Over the years, my disease progressed but I was still able to live a semi-normal life. After high school I became a paramedic and 911 dispatched and volunteered at Union Fire Co. and Lancaster Ambulance here in Buffalo. Although I stayed active, I still spent hours a day taking a dozen medications and doing breathing treatments. I had to frequently take weeks off of work at a time for hospital admissions that would last weeks at a time.
My wife and I married 13 years ago and shortly after we married we moved to Orlando for better health care specialists. Again the disease progressed further but I was able to start and operate my own fishing charter business up to 2013 when I became too sick to work. It was also at this time we adopted my newborn son then, Casey. My lung function dropped into the 20% range, and became a stay at home dad while going through the process of getting onto the transplant list. I was listed for almost a year with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL when I met a nearly established team out of Orlando. It was that moment I decided to put all my eggs into the Florida Hospital Orlando Transplant team basket and dropped from the Mayo Clinic list. During this year long wait, my medications were nonstop; IV meds every day, oral medications, home oxygen, you name it, I was taking it to keep me going. I was getting so sick I could barely walk from my couch to the bathroom because I was so weak, tired and short of breath.
On Saturday October 12, 2013 at 7am ---2 weeks after going all in with Florida Hospital I received a call from my nurse saying they found a perfect match and to start heading to the hospital. It was a quick 45 minute drive and although I was nervous, I had no doubts about the surgery. I had 100% confidence the team I had behind me would do everything to keep me alive. A short 5 hours later the surgery was done and within 12 hours of surgery they woke me up for a short time to tell me everything was going great.
Once I was off the ventilator, I felt awesome instantly. Although I was physically weak, my mind was ready to get my body to run a marathon. I was only hospitalized for a week and went through a few months of physical therapy but within 4 months of the surgery I was back to running my fishing charter business.
I was having some post-surgical issues that caused some different meds and weekly procedures but I felt amazing. Unfortunately, a year past and we learned that the hospital was closing down my transplant team. So my wife and I made a bold move to transfer my care to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh and move back home to buffalo, 10 years after leaving.
It was one of the best choices we ever made for our family. It also gave me the opportunity to get back into the field of emergency services. Today, I work part time for Village of Depew and West Seneca as emergency dispatchers, work part-time as a EMT for Mercy EMS, attend paramedic recertification class and I am very involved as a volunteer EMT/Firefighter with Bowmansville Volunteer Fire Company.
I have been very blessed to continue my passion to service and to help others. It's because of a hero that I don't know anything about. A person just did a simple thing by becoming an organ donor. I haven’t learned anything yet about my donor. The few details we received from the hospital staff at the time of the surgery was the donor saved 11 people. I received the lungs, someone at the same hospital I was at received a heart, another person a kidney, and then others outside the Orlando area received organs or bone marrow.
The one thing I try to tell people that are on the fence about becoming an organ donor is that there is nothing to be scared of. If tragedy strikes, Buffalo has great healthcare providers, EMT's, Paramedics, Nurses and Doctors that go above and beyond to save lives each day. However, when everything has been done and there is no chance for survival there still may be a chance for someone else that has been waiting for a second chance on life. Be that hero, have that legacy your family will remember for forever and become an organ donor today.