Maritimes’ oldest lung transplant recipient launches pulmonary fibrosis research campaign

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At 76, John Dennis of Halifax has become the oldest in the Maritimes to receive a lung transplant.

Today, at 77, he gives back by cycling 700 kilometers around Prince Edward Island to raise funds for pulmonary fibrosis research.

Pulmonary fibrosis is, simply put, severe lung scarring. The disease cost his brother his life, and almost his own.

“My ribs were so sore and I was in so much pain. I just didn’t think I was going to last much longer,” Dennis said. “(My doctor) said, ‘No, you probably wouldn’t have lasted. only a week or two more.””

In his 70s and about 70 pounds overweight, Dennis was ineligible for a lung transplant in Nova Scotia, where he lives, so after losing weight and fighting back, he finally got a transplant at Toronto.

That was 14 months ago and now its wheels are turning.

Dennis’ 700 kilometer journey began on the Confederation Trail in Charlottetown.

He’s asking companies to donate $700 each, $1 for every mile traveled.

Dennis says the ride should take him around two weeks and he aims to raise $1.4 million in the process.

“It’s an ambitious goal,” said Marlene Bryenton, co-ordinator of Dennis’ “I Ride for You and Me” campaign. “John seems like a man who, if he has a goal in mind, is a very determined man, and I think that goal is going to be achieved.”

Denis got off to a good start. So far, he has raised more than $11,000 by Friday morning and received an additional $1,000 from a local pulmonary fibrosis community group before leaving on the trip.

“I spend all my time advocating for patients with pulmonary fibrosis and raising money for research,” Dennis said. “It’s my life’s mission now.”

Dennis received more good news on Friday. Prince Edward Island Health and Wellness Minister Ernie Hudson announced that the province now covers OFEV, a drug that slows the progression of pulmonary fibrosis.

“It’s great to have it added to the form,” Hudson said. “To be able to help anyone who needs it.”

Dennis says his lung transplant brought him back to life.

“It slowed me down,” Dennis said. “But I’m going to be 78 this fall too, so I guess I can’t complain at 78 that I’m able to do that.”

Anyone interested in donating to Dennis’ “I ride for you and me” campaign can do so on the Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation website. website.

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