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10 km for 10 years – Double-lung recipient marks a decade with gifted lungs

Paul Underhill was always an active child. Though he developed Cystic Fibrosis as an infant, a genetic disease that affects the digestive system and the lungs, exercise was still encouraged by his family.
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​"I think that's ultimately what saved me. I knew a lot of people who unfortunately passed at a young age who were told not to that because it was seen as too much of a risk," Paul recalls.

It wasn't until his late twenties that his health took a turn for the worse.

"I was coughing up blood and required oxygen 24/7," he remembers. "I needed a walker to get around and couldn't walk a city block without having to stop and rest."

      Paul in hospital.jpeg

Paul was so weak by the time he reached 40, that he couldn't even brush his teeth without help.

His doctors informed him that his best chance was to go to Toronto for a lung transplant. Paul flew to Toronto and the day after he was added to the transplant list, he received a new set of lungs.

Recovery after transplant was a challenge: "Chronic rejection kicked me in the butt. I had prepared for an unhealthy early demise and it was a difficult time, but I'm very lucky with how everything went."

Paul wanted his active lifestyle to make a comeback in a big way, and he made health and wellness his focus. He launched a protein drink, which brought him to the hit reality business program Dragon's Den and helped him expand his business.

One year after his transplant, he completed 140 kilometres on his bike in the Tour de Victoria – a mere warm-up for what was to come.

"I biked 1,200 km from Vancouver to Banff for GearUp4CF, a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis Canada," he says.

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Paul hasn't looked back– growing his company and regularly riding, running, and raising awareness for both organ donation and Cystic Fibrosis.

April 22, 2021 marks 10 years since the double-lung transplant that saved Paul's life. And he's going to mark it in the way that is only fitting for someone for whom health and fitness is so important.

He'll journey 10 kilometres by foot that weekend, to celebrate his 10-year transplant anniversary. Paul says he's doing the distance at his own pace – running as much as he can, and walking the rest. He's learned to listen to his body, which he recognizes is slowing down.

"Confidently, I can do four kilometres running, but I'm training in hopes of achieving five, and then will walk the other five," Paul explains.

The generosity of organ donors and the painful fight of others suffering from illnesses such as Cystic Fibrosis, are what keep him moving.

"It's time to celebrate a decade of active life with these gifted lungs," Paul says. "I owe it to my donor and family to do something."


Coinciding with National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (NOTDAW), Paul hopes his story and gesture will help encourage people to register as organ donors.

Written by: Ryan Uytdewilligen, BC Transplant Volunteer

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