Update: Michael passed away peacefully at his home in Mississauga on Friday, July 27, 2012, at the age of 59.
“I was told I had as few as five months to live. There was nothing that could be done.”
Michael, 57, says he has always lived a charmed life. “I have had a successful career in banking and have had no history of illness.” But then he developed a cough, became increasingly tired and soon going up just a few stairs had him completely out of breath. Something wasn’t right.
His doctor ran him through a battery of tests and prescribed prednisone, a steroid, which in 24 hours says made him feel like Superman. But it didn’t last. He was still tired, couldn’t catch his breath and wound up in Emergency. After a series of tests, what was causing Michael’s health to deteriorate was still a mystery. But in what he refers to as a last-ditch effort by his doctor, Michael found himself in Dr. Samir Gupta’s office at St. Michael’s.
Dr. Gupta determined Michael's health problems were caused by a rare lung disease called hepatopulmonary syndrome (HPS), a fatal condition that Dr. Gupta is bent on solving.
“People with HPS have breathing problems and low oxygen levels in the blood in the arteries, which are somehow connected to liver disease,” says Dr. Gupta. “A liver transplant was the only way Michael could get better. We don’t understand the connection or why it works, but if you replace one organ, the other can repair itself.”
Then something extraordinary happened. Michael’s 26-year-old son Austin donated two-thirds of his liver to save his father. St. Michael’s worked with the renowned transplant team at Toronto General Hospital and the transplant was a success. Michael’s breathing problems have since disappeared and father and son have returned to their normal lives. Now Michael and his wife Deborah are supporting Dr. Gupta’s clinical and research program in HPS, which is unique in North America.
In 2010, Michael held a successful benefit event for St. Michael's Rare Lung Disease program.