New lungs for father of triplets

In early June, Royce Germain, then age 30, had his funeral plans arranged and was spending his last days with his family. But then in the wee hours of June 4, he was given new life.

Royce Germain

In early June, Royce Germain, then age 30, had his funeral plans arranged and was spending his last days with his family. But then in the wee hours of June 4, he was given new life.

Since he was born, Germain has lived with cystic fibrosis, but it wasn't until his late 20s that it started to bother him much. He was having more and more difficulty breathing, and eventually, in October of 2011, he had to quit his job with Lakesnet at the City of Detroit Lakes and go on disability.

"It had gotten to the point that my lung capacity had deteriorated to 26 percent," he said. "Basically, everything was three or four times harder for me than what anybody else would be doing. One step for a normal person is four steps for me. Breathing wise, it's like sucking through a straw; you can't take deep breaths."

The morning after he had quit his job, he got a call that donor lungs were ready for him. He was flown by helicopter from Detroit Lakes -- where he lives with his wife and their triplets -- to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.

He was on the operating table, about to be put under for surgery and the doctor got a call that the lungs were no good because they had pneumonia on the backside that hadn't been seen in the previous X-rays. So, Germain packed up and went home with no new lungs.


Then in May of this year, Germain said he wasn't feeling well because he had been fighting off some colds and got to the point he could tell his lung function had decreased again.

"I made an appointment and came down here and pretty much told them I'd need to be admitted to the hospital," he said.

He had dropped to about 20 percent lung capacity, and doctors hooked him up to IVs and antibiotics, which should have made him feel better.

"It got to the point where my team of doctors came in and said, 'get your family down here, whoever wants to be here, and we need to have a meeting about the next step. We've pretty much done everything we can.'"

They told him that he was in the hospital for the long run at that point --the stay would either end in a new set of lungs, or him dying waiting for them.

Germain said having cystic fibrosis all of his life, he's been preparing for all this for years. When he was born, there weren't the advances there are now, and many people didn't live past childhood.

"I kind of always expected (the worst)," he said. "I never did know about lung transplant because it wasn't real popular yet."

So, he said, he's kind of always accepted that he wouldn't live as long as the average person would, but actually processing it while sitting in the hospital was harder than he thought it would be.


"When it really sank in that this was it, it took a couple days to go through the process. There's nothing you can do about it, that feeling that there's nothing you can do to change it. But other than that, I was pretty accepting of it. I always knew in the back of my mind that's how it would go."

He and his wife, Erica, started making his funeral arrangements. By that time, his lung capacity was at 15 percent on 10 liters of oxygen, and he weighed only 117 pounds.

"That Sunday, Erica was getting ready to leave, I was just crawling back into bed actually, and my primary pulmonologist came in the door and said, 'hey, I've got some good news.'"

Germain said his first reaction was great, a new antibiotic to actually help him feel better. It was even better though -- a new set of lungs were ready for him.

"I was in shock for a while. It took a while to absorb all that," he said. "It's really hard to go from 'yeah, I won't be here too much longer' to 'well, now I get to have this whole new life again.'

"I said I wasn't going to get my hopes up this time until I woke up with them in me."

On June 4 at 3 a.m., Germain went into the operating room and received a new set of lungs.

"I woke up a couple days later," he said with a laugh.


By the end of that week, he was up and walking.

He spent the first couple days on oxygen, but he said, it was more of a security blanket than actually needed. He had been on oxygen so long before that he said he felt he needed it to breathe out of habit.

"It took me a few days to get used to not needing that oxygen, for my brain to realize when I start huffing, it's fine."

Germain said he feels great and recovery has been going great except for a minor setback with drainage with his chest tube. Nearly two months later, he is still staying in the Twin Cities. He'll be down there another month or two, being monitored regularly to make sure his body doesn't reject his new lungs.

"It's crazy what I can do now with all this energy back."

His kids Carson, Landon and Noah, who will be 4 on Sept. 11, have gotten to come visit him both as a group and individually. They got to come in early July to celebrate Germain's 31st birthday and now a different child comes each weekend to visit and get some one-on-one time with Dad.

Germain is now on medications and vitamins for life -- a meal in itself, he said -- because of the transplant, and he will more than likely have to have a kidney transplant in the future because of the damage from all those pills, but it's worth it to have a new life at age 31.

He has to avoid the sun as well, because skin cancer is very hard to avoid since his body can't fight that off, either.


"Your life kind of changes as far as what you can eat and do," he added.

No pop out of a can or bottle (he has to wash the lid and then dump it into a glass to drink it) no alcohol, no large public places because he can't fight off the germs, no buffets and potlucks because he can easily get food poisoning -- "a lot of little things."

"Pretty much everything they throw at you, me anyway, it's that or death. I think I'll take the that!

"It is what it is. I don't think about it too much. When it comes down the road, it's just one more thing you have to get to."

Organ donation

According to , there are 114,733 people on the transplant waiting list.

United Network for Organ Sharing is a private, non-profit organization that manages the nation's organ transplant system under contract with the federal government.

Between January and April of this year, there were 8,986 transplants made from 4,438 donors. One donor can save multiple lives.

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