Robin’s Story

From Robin's wife Ailsa Pitcher

Robin, a loving husband, father, and grandfather; was fit and healthy until the onset of this disease – Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. He was actively involved in Badminton and cricket, and played until a couple of years before this death at the age of 69. He loved fishing and taught his two sons these hobbies, introducing them the art of fishing, and to badminton and cricket.

Robin had several admissions to hospital from 2007 as the disease progressed, and initially was given the diagnosis of ‘Cryptogenic Fibrosing Alveolitis’, then Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis on following admissions (both meaning the same disease– confusing to us as family at the time). Taking medications for IPF and other health problems, Robin developed Type 2 Diabetes requiring insulin. Other side effects from his medications were to follow. Robin persisted in taking advice and his medications as prescribed in the hope of a cure or relief of the symptoms.

After the diagnosis of IPF, exercise and healthy eating were his main focuses. Robin walked and attended Respiratory Rehabilitation clinic regularly. As his exercise tolerance and lung capacity decreased he continued to watch NZ sports on T.V. Family and friends were important to him, and supportive in the last months of his life.

He encouraged native birds to visit our garden by setting up feeding areas and kept them replenished. On his last admission to hospital, it was explained to him his life expectancy was limited. He stated he was not “throwing in the towel yet”, he wanted to go home and have Christmas with family. A Palliative care package was arranged so he could return home to a familiar surrounding with his pets and native birds in the garden. Robin died a few days after discharge from hospital in October 2010.

Being a retired nurse, I had seen many serious illnesses and diseases, but felt IPF must be one of the cruelest fatal diseases. It affects all who come to know it, the patient, the family, friends and also the medical staff involved.

The Gift of Life

It’s only when you come face to face with the gripping reality of a life-threatening illness and the possibility of a reprieve, that the importance of organ donation really hits home.

After receiving a successful lung transplant as a sufferer of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and being able to return to his productive working life, Mosgiel Real Estate Agent Lachie McLachlan really knows the meaning of gratitude.

“I was very unwell and really didn’t realise it until I experienced dramatic deterioration of my health,” he says.

“I was extremely fortunate that within seven months after being placed on a waiting list I received the gift of new lungs.”

“The list of people I have to thank for being alive today is a very long one,” he says.

“First and foremost is my wife Helen, who together with my family stood by my side throughout the whole journey.”

“Everyone who walked alongside me was completely integral to the success of the operation.”

“Ben Brockway, the Respiratory Specialist at Dunedin Hospital became a life-member of my family throughout the process.”

In New Zealand there have been 165 recipients of lung transplants in the last 20 years. This equates to about eight people a year.

“I was very fortunate. Some people wait for a much longer period than I did. It’s a matter of finding a donor who matches your specific requirements, including the same blood and tissue type.”

After months of rehabilitation and recovery Lachie has returned to his working schedule.

“Some people would call me a workaholic. But the truth is I love what I do. That is my major motivator.”

Lachie is using his own life story to encourage other people to consider the benefits of organ donation.

“When I look at the audiences that I am talking to I am aware that so many people have endured real tragedy in their lives,” he says.

“I know I have received a wonderful blessing.”

He expressed his gratitude to the family of his donor six months after the transplant and again six months later.

“Although they were really difficult letters to write I believe it is also a blessing for the families of the donors to know that their loss is not entirely in vain.”

My Journey to Diagnosis

View the below video series to follow one man's personal account of the process of being diagnosed with IPF and living with the condition.

My Journey to Diagnosis

Being told I have Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

My experience with IPF

My family and friends

What I live for