Lachie breathing easy with new lungs

Lachie and Helen McLachlan will celebrate Lachie's successful lung transplant with friends and family this afternoon. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Lachie and Helen McLachlan will celebrate Lachie's successful lung transplant with friends and family this afternoon. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

Six months ago, Mosgiel man Lachie McLachlan (64) received a new set of lungs, and today he will celebrate with friends and family.

Previously, the farmer turned real estate agent could not conquer the 10 steps to the kitchen, but that all changed after he was flown to Auckland for a lung transplant in January.

Family and friends will host today's celebration and more than 200 people will be at Wingatui Racecourse to thank and congratulate his supporters. He was on a waiting list for seven months, and said the weeks leading up to transplant day ''were pretty horrendous''.

''Getting the lungs was down to the wire.''

Mr McLachlan had planned his funeral with his family and a minister: ''I didn't want Helen to struggle with making plans later,'' he said. But then he got the phone call from a co-ordinator in Auckland, on January 10, to say a pair of lungs was waiting for him, and within 10 hours he was on the operating table.

Finding a match was a ''miracle in our favour - there's no one word,'' he said, describing the experience.

His wife Helen McLachlan said: ''Now we have a life''.

The McLachlan family praised respiratory physician Dr Ben Brockway as the ''driving force'' behind Mr McLachlan's transplant.

Dr Brockway said although it was likely more than five Otago residents had needed lung transplants in the past five years, people did not always get one, even when they were on the waiting list. Now, the self-proclaimed ''lucky man'' is out to encourage organ donation.

In 2009, Mr McLachlan went to the doctor with ''just a cough''; by 2011 he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis - an unexplained respiratory disease, which had dramatically decreased his lung capacity. Mr McLachlan could not move from the chair in his lounge. The room, and his life, were dominated by oxygen concentrators, to which he was linked for 12 months, 24 hours a day. One week after planning his own funeral, he got the life-changing phone call. His first thought was: ''Let's contact the family. I'd been subconsciously waiting for that call for months.''

''Cancel the funeral,'' he said on the plane to Auckland, but not everything went smoothly.

Following the transplant, Mr McLachlan was in Auckland City Hospital for two months while doctors ironed out complications, including septic shock and a ''horrendous'' bowel obstruction. At one point doctors told Mrs McLachlan: ''There is nothing more we can do'', but, Mr McLachlan said, ''I wasn't ready to go''.

He and his family spent another month at a centre for cardiothoracic transplant patients, Hearty Towers. Mr McLachlan's daughter, Janet Andrews, called it ''a wonderful facility to stay at while they rehabilitate''.

Mr McLachlan now looks forward to spending more time with his three children and 11 grandchildren, watching horse racing, and helping promote organ donation.

Mr and Mrs McLachlan said they had been overwhelmed by people's support and help in the past 18 months.

- Hannah Greenslade-Yeats

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