Weeks after the 2016 Detroit Climb, we lost our dear friend Dave Cooney. He wasn’t able to physically be there at last year’s climb, as he was ill, but he was there with us in spirit as we know he will be this year. For those of us who had the honor of meeting Dave, we feel forever changed. His spirit has moved so many of us. This year, we all climb for Dave. Please take a moment to read Dave’s story about his journey and why he climbed.
My name is Dave Cooney and this is why I climb.
I have an identical twin named Dennis. In 2003, he was diagnosed with interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. This is a serious lung disease with no known cause, cure or treatment. Over the next two years he developed other health complications, before the disease took his life. He left behind a loving wife and three young daughters.
It was only three years later that I too was diagnosed with the same disease. I never smoked, and led an active, athletic lifestyle.
The day I was diagnosed, I returned home from the doctor and broke the news to my wife. Together we told our three daughters, who found the news almost too devastating to comprehend. That very difficult day, all our lives changed and have never been the same since.
I continued to work at my outdoor job, although single digit cold weather made it very difficult to breathe. One year, and one month later, test results showed a marked acceleration of the disease. I now had to use supplemental oxygen, and was forced to stop working and go on medical disability. Up to now, I had perfect attendance for about 30 of the 36 years of employment. I've always loved my job.
Because there is no treatment of cure for interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, the only option is a lung transplant.
I was on oxygen 24/7 for several weeks when I was placed on the lung transplant list. Meanwhile, my lung capacity continued to decline. I had less than 20 percent capacity in my left lung, and a little more in my right.
After only 3 weeks on the transplant list, we received a life changing call; a possible donor had been found. I was to report to the hospital immediately to prepare for surgery.
Two days after the surgery, I opened my eyes and saw my wife and three daughters at my bedside. I had received two large lungs. My recovery was remarkable. The doctors and nurses were excited with my progress. I was one of their best double lung recoveries.
None of this would have been possible without prayers for a miracle.
I especially want to thank my wife Elaine for being my soul mate and care giver. We have journeyed together, and have been deeply blessed. My three daughters have been a true source of encouragement and strength. Our love as a family has never been stronger. I am very grateful to God for this incredible gift to my family.
I will never take this gift for granted. For instance, the other day early in the morning, it was very cold outside. It was a sunny day with blue sky. When I blew my breath out, I saw the steam in the air. I said out loud, "I can see my breath!" Then I choked up and repeated, "I can see my breath!" Thank you, God.