Future of Surgery

Willie’s Story


VGH team saves father of three

At one point, Willie Dalagan didn’t think he would have very much time with his family. In spring of 2016, Willie’s health rapidly declined and he was in urgent need of a lung transplant.

“A patient with this disease only has two to five years to live,” he says. “I’d look at my kids and started thinking about, ‘Ok, what’s going to happen here?’”

The 44-year old was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) with respiratory failure. He was previously diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis – a disease that causes scarring of the lungs.

He needed new lungs and he needed them quickly.

Dire situation

While waiting, Willie’s condition suddenly deteriorated. Doctors at VGH needed to keep him alive until they found a suitable transplant.

They used the novel ECMO machine – a portable “heart-lung” machine, a device that extracts and oxygenates a patient’s blood before re-infusing it.

I have to live

Thankfully, VGH found new lungs for the dying man. The double-lung transplant took about seven hours and he was discharged less than a month later. This was a testament to Willie’s strength and the world class care at VGH.

The construction manager doesn’t remember much while recovering in the ICU.

“I remember asking myself, ‘Have I done enough for my family; created enough good memories?’ And my answer was ‘No. I have to live. I have to live to fill those gaps.’”

Appreciation everyday

Willie is thankful, every day, for the care he received at VGH.

“The team at Vancouver General Hospital made it possible for me to have a second lease on life,” he says, “and I’m not going to waste it.”

“I want to go for it.”


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