Dead Last But Finished

“Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish, which trumps Did Not Start”
– Anonymous

Saturday morning, I picked my dad up at 7:00 AM to head into the city for the Race to Donate Life 5k. This 5k was a big — no, HUGE — deal for my dad. As I’ve written about before, two years ago my dad was diagnosed with a mysterious and fatal lung disease. Basically, his lungs were scarring over and making it harder for him to breathe. They have no idea what caused it — he never smoked or worked in an environment that could cause lung disease. The doctors said the disease was progressing rapidly and his only chance for survival was a quick lung transplant. His condition was so dire that he went straight to the top of the transplant list, and after being listed, he received a new lung only two weeks later!

Dad pinning on his race bib

Me and my dad.

I thought my dad would get his new lung and everything would be peachy again, like it had all been a bad dream. But recovery from the transplant was anything but easy. It seemed like it was two steps forward and one step back. He had so many complications, including fluid buildup in his chest which had to be surgically drained. He spent weeks in the hospital as doctors tried to figure out why he kept getting this fluid buildup, and eventually they scratched their heads and let him go home. He lost his appetite and got dangerously thin. But the one complication that was most troubling was nerve damage in his legs, probably caused by losing so much weight so rapidly. A year after having his lung transplant, my dad could barely walk. He walked so slow, very unsteady, and his feet didn’t flex right which impacted his stride. He says now that he would sit on the balcony of his condo and look down at people walking and running in the park, and be amazed at how easy they made it look.

Chelsey wrote this week about her Dream Jar, a jar where she and her husband save their spare change in hopes it will someday add up to enough for a vacation. Chelsey writes:

Everyone has their own Dream Jar. A goal, a change, a dream that seems so far off it doesn’t even seem worth it to work towards it.

For my dad, it was being able to walk — really walk — again. It seemed so out of reach, almost impossible to imagine. But he worked at it, and step by step, inch by inch, he went from using a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane, to walking unassisted.

The race went through Rock Creek Park in DC. Gorgeous!

A year and a half ago, it would have been too much for him to even imagine walking 3.1 miles. But on Saturday we did just that. We walked the Race to Donate Life 5k, which benefits the Washington Regional Transplant Community’s awareness programs for organ, eye and tissue donation. My dad said he figured we’d come in last. He wanted to take it very slow, because he wanted to finish. We’d gone on two practice walks and done two miles in about an hour, so at that pace, we were looking at about 01:30 to finish the 5k. And the way the route was set up, the last mile was a gradual incline, so we didn’t want to use all of my dad’s energy up too early.

Bringing up the rear.

He was right. We came in last. In the end, it took us 01:25. But we finished. Eighteen months ago, my dad couldn’t walk on his own. On Saturday, he walked a 5k. What’s next?

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37 Responses to Dead Last But Finished

  1. That’s so great! I think it’s an absolutely amazing accomplishment – you must feel so proud of your Dad, and I know he is proud of himself, too. What a great story – thank you for sharing

  2. This was SUCH a wonderful story, I’m definitely tearing up. Congratulations to your dad for all his hard work! He definitely deserves it.


    n

  3. Oh goodness. Now I’m crying as I type this….very touching.
    Your dad is a very inspirational person. His story really puts life into perspective. What a wonderful achievement!

  4. Congratulations to your dad! Wow… to think that at one point he wanted to walk again, and now he’s walking a 5k! Definitely tearing up a little 🙂

  5. That’s AWESOME! Props to you and your dad! Woot!

    Thanks for a “good perspective” post!

  6. wow – that is incredibly inspiring! what strength, courage, perseverance! i’m so glad he is doing better now!

  7. lindsay says:

    wow, this is so humbling. And you dad is a huge inspiration. COngrats to him! Truly an honor to read about him!

  8. Your dad is such an inspiration! The bottom line is that you two finished! Congrats on the race, and thanks for sharing that amazing story!

  9. This is wonderful, Christine! What a terrible and long struggle this disease must have been, and sadly it’s often not the case that things go smoothly again soon after a bigger surgery. I’m so happy that he can walk again, and it’s an awesome gesture that he did this long walk to support a donation program. And I love that you went with him. All the best to your dad! 🙂

  10. Allie says:

    This totally brought tears to my eyes! I am so proud of your dad and you sticking through everything with him. 🙂
    I am so sorry he had to go through the health issues but also so happy he is getting back to normal with his walking!!

  11. Aw, I love this! That is so great that you did that with your dad. I am so impressed with his commitment to get back to being able to walk. That is so scary that he found out suddenly about the problem with his lungs, and how quickly and how much that changed his life. So glad he got through it!

    • Christine says:

      It’s terrifying how quickly your life, and the lives of your loved ones, can change.

      • It’s true:(. My best friend was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer this January (at age 26 and with a four-month-old son:(). Within a week she was in the hospital getting her first chemo treatment and figuring out how to get her head shaved and a wig made, etc. It was a real eye opener for me that things can change in a second, and we have to live and love every minute of our lives! Luckily my friend just finished her last round of chemo and is doing well!!

  12. My dad and I are so close that his health struggles are always tough on me too. This is a great story, thanks for sharing!

  13. becca says:

    Wow, this is SO amazing. I’m so glad you shared this story your dad is a huge inspiration

  14. That is brilliant!
    Kudos to your Dad, (and you!) for doing the 5k. He sounds like quite the champ. 🙂

    ~

  15. OMG how cool! What a great story, and such great memories for you to share with your dad! So cute!

  16. What an inspiring story Christina! It brought tears to my eyes when I read it. I LOVE this post!

  17. Christine this is sooooo encouraging and touching!! I’m so so happy for your dad and his willingness to move forward! ahhhh what an awesome man~and congratulations to you both for being so strong and finishing last! but heyyy you finished 😀

  18. This gave me chills =) I’m so glad your dad was able to walk the 5k!!! That is an amazing accomplishment!!! esp with the lung transplant and crazy recovery process! I’m so happy for the two of you! =)

  19. AMAZING! Your dad has come such a long way, and what an awesome experience to share with him! Who cares what place you came in. The fact that he finished is the coolest thing ever!! Your dad clearly rocks!

  20. Shanna says:

    This is so so inspiring! Your Dad sounds like one amazing guy 🙂

  21. Kelsey says:

    This is such a moving story. I’m so impressed with your dad. What a determined spirit he has! You must be so proud!!!

  22. katie says:

    How awesome! Your dad rocks! So happy for him, and how awesome about his story, he came through and is blessed!!!!

    Love ya girl!!!!

  23. What an inspiring story!! You have an incredible father.

  24. Missy says:

    Oh, wow.
    That? So beautiful.
    Beautiful struggle.
    Give him a hug for me?

  25. Shannon says:

    I made the mistake of reading your post at work and it got me a little choked up…my boss was a bit concerned that something had happened to my husband or daughter…but no, I just think your dad is amazing! And pretty lucky to have you there with him! Congratulations to both of you for finishing the race!!!!!

  26. Oh, wow, what an amazing story!!! Also a great reminder of all the simple things we take for granted every day like walking!

    Your dad rocks!! 🙂 And that is such a cute pic of the two of you!

  27. Tom says:

    Amazing. Congrats to him for the desire, work and dedication. And to you for such support!

  28. Kate says:

    Your dad’s story made me cry! Wow, your dad is an inspiration. Hugs and congratulations to him and to you for being such wonderful daughter being there for him every step of the way. And I mean every step.

    *HUGS*
    -k

  29. Mohammed Ahmed says:

    Christine,

    It is really a great story. I know you Dad did it but all along the time, from the time when got sick to the time he finished his race. It was you always around him, giving him encouragement and giving that feeling that “yes, you can do it Dad”. Good luck to you and your Dad.

  30. Jeannie says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! It is a very emotional story. I love how your dad has kept pushing on and moving forward despite all he has gone through. So many would give up and let themselves wither away. In fact, my own dad has had several small strokes, hip problems, heart problems etc… and can’t walk real well anymore either. However, he chooses to just sit and watch TV or sleep in his chair all day. This just contributes to his decline and it saddens me. I used to be a PT and I love working with those patients who were fighters and were determined to do whatever necessary to get better. I think so many are capable to doing so much more if they just believe in themselves and put forth their best effort to keep moving forward toward their dream.

  31. Mercedes says:

    What a wonderful, powerful story. A testimony, really ~ to patience and faith and the amazing human body!

    Organ donors rock ~ Merf’s dad walks.

  32. Buddy Hardison (Amy's Dad) says:

    Hi Chris.

    Please extend my heartiest congratulations to your Dad for his courage and perseverance…and to you too for supporting him. His story is truly amazing and inspiring. I have a running poster on my wall that was given to me many years ago, which reads: “The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running.” Tell him that when I look at that poster from now on, I’ll think of him. Also, tell him that when I have trouble getting my b_tt out the door to run, I’ll think of his story, and get out there.

    All the best to you and your Dad!

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