Karen Colenbrander

Inhale Life – Exhale Thanks

KarenBreathing should be easy, and for most people it is.

I will never forget the first time I yawned post transplant. It surprised me so much I burst into a combination of laughter and tears. That was the moment I realized the incredible gift of healthy lungs that I had received. My lungs and chest expanded so fully that I thought they might swallow up my head. What an incredible moment! Then I realized I could not even remember the last time I had yawned. My lungs had been so full of fibrosis that shallow intentional breaths were all I could take. I had also been on oxygen 24/7 for the past several years. Oxygen tubing snaked through my home and went with me wherever I travelled.

I can still remember when they removed my oxygen cannula after my transplant. The nurse said, ‘you really don’t need this anymore’. Whenever my oxygen levels would drop all I had to do was take a deep breath and back up they would go. After living with declining lung function for more than ten years actually being able to take a deep breath was amazing.

It seems fitting that it was Donor Day that I actually received my Gift of Life, two beautiful healthy lungs. I had been waiting on the transplant list for almost a year.

Donor Day is more widely known as Valentine’s Day and my family and friends cannot think of any better gift of love than the one that I received. It gave me back my life and it gave me back to them.

The past two years have been full of new adventures for me; I have been to the top of the world…or maybe it was the restaurant at the top of the CN Tower, I had the opportunity to skate on the Canada 150 Rink of Dreams on Parliament Hill in honour of my Donor…even though I can’t really skate, I get to enjoy playing in the lake with the grandkids… which I had not been able to do with them before, I have been away to music camp…and I had not been to camp since I was eleven, I have taken some painting classes…still can’t paint but I am having fun trying, and I can sing again…something I love to do.

I have learned to embrace each day and have realized…if not today, then when.

Donors change lives. I believe that being willing to share with others is the kindest gesture we can all make.

All Donors are my heroes.
You can check at beadonor.ca to ensure that you are registered, or to register. Then remember to please discuss this with your family. I have registered!

Thank you for reading my story.
Karen – Double-Lung Recipient

5 comments on “Karen Colenbrander

  1. Elaine on

    Beautifully written Karen. Do you know how many lives you have touched just being you. A loving, companionate friend. I am truly grateful for your donor as well for very selfish reasons.
    A donor I am.

  2. Sharon Stewart on

    Oh Karen! I know a bit of the journey you have been on. I am blessed to be part of your music/church family. Keep breathing!

  3. Cathy Kokot on

    Your journey is absolutely fascinating! Just a simple yawn, feeling so magnificent, is amazing! I am so glad you got your lungs when you did and that they worked instantly in your body. I am also so thankful that you are able to do things once again that you could never do for years just prior to the transplant, like play with your grandchildren and SING. (That alone would feed my soul!) I can hear the immense gratitude toward your donor in every post you write. Love, Cathy

  4. Eleanor on

    Karen, thanks for sharing your story and keeping us posted on your renewed activities. So happy that you have a new lease on life. Thank You, Father, for bringing healing to Karen. Love, Aunt Eleanor


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