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Guest Post: The story of Yannick Poirier (Part 1 of 2)

Hello Cysters and Cystas! My name’s Yannick Poirier. I’m 32 years old and the father of two cute little test tube monsters who will soon be six and four years old. In 2016, I received a double lung transplant that enabled me to live again and watch my two children grow up. As I mentioned above, I’m a father, but when it comes right down to it, I’m also a child, a brother, a cousin, an uncle and a friend, as well as a human being. Although I’m only just starting to get involved in the cystic fibrosis community, my parents were very active members when I was young, organizing fundraisers, walk-a-thons, etc. A native of Montreal, I’ve lived in the comfort of the city’s suburbs for 32 years. I work in the transportation logistics field, specifically as an inventory analyst for a food company, a position I’ve held since 2005. I had to stop working nearly four years ago because of the disease. Although I’ve received my lung transplant, I still don’t know when I’ll be able to go back to work.

When I was born, everything was fine. I was a child like any other, except that I had terrible stomach aches, according to my parents, as well as pneumonia on top of bronchitis. In order to help my parents through my periods of ill health, my paternal grandmother babysat me to give them a break. They took a one-week vacation to reconnect and rediscover “normal” life. I was three months old. At that point, my grandmother decided that she’d had enough of seeing me this sick. We took a little trip to the hospital, and that’s when the diagnosis came: cystic fibrosis. Cystic what!? Cystic fibrosis. That’s what I had. My parents quickly returned from holiday to get this terrible news. In 1985, the life expectancy of people with cystic fibrosis wasn’t what it is today. I had an expiry date stuck to my forehead: 1987. Luckily, the doctors didn’t tattoo it on me! That’s how my life with cystic fibrosis began.

Although my childhood was filled with physiotherapy treatments, pills, hospital stays and IV pole races down hospital corridors, I didn’t grow up any differently than the other children in my neighbourhood. They were my friends, and some of them still are today! I played hockey and baseball at competitive levels, as well as several other sports just for fun. The disease shaped me into the human being that I’ve become, but it never took over in my mind so as to control my thoughts and actions. I even thought that all my friends had to get up early to do their things, just like me with my treatments. In my mind, it was completely normal. I didn’t see myself as different. I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I have this disease; I wasn’t afraid to talk about it as a child and I’m still not afraid today. I’ve never hidden to take my enzymes or do my respiratory physiotherapy, whether I was at school, at relatives’ or friends’ houses, or at work. In this respect, I’m truly an open book.

Like any child, I had to contend with the pleasures of school: kindergarten, elementary school, high school and college. Ah, wonderful Charlemagne! I can’t say that my path was very different from my classmates’, aside from the fact that I had to miss days and even full weeks of school on several occasions. I had to attend various medical appointments and have stays in the hospital until I was in fourth grade when I was finally allowed to take my antibiotics at home. From that point on, I could go to school despite my intravenous treatments. Also, cystic fibrosis never kept me from going on school field trips, like a trip to Boston or an escapade in the woods of New York State. When I got to high school and saw that my health was good and that I was obviously going to reach the age when I’d have to join the workforce, I began to think about what kind of job I wanted. Since I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do at that point, I registered for a college program in natural sciences, figuring that I’d eventually make my way into the medical field. When I realized that these studies would “cost” me a few years of my life, I decided to redirect my career towards a more dynamic, constantly changing field that would draw on several areas of my life in which I already had some skill, such as information technology, mathematics, teamwork and analytical thinking. This field was transportation, or more specifically, transportation logistics. After three years, my studies were complete, and I started working for a company that I’m still working for twelve years later.

Overall, my disease has never hindered my professional aspirations, except when it started to get worse. I’ve officially been on medical leave since November 2014, following a deterioration of my health. At first, I saw this leave as an extended vacation. However, later on, I started to question myself: Of what use am I in this world if I can’t work or get some sense of accomplishment? Depression set in. I had to find a goal to make me feel alive, to make me feel like I had something to contribute to society. Therefore, I became treasurer for my neighbourhood association as well as an active member of the Board of Directors of a non-profit organization. These two activities kept me busy for a short time, until my separation when I had to devote my time to my children, the sale of my house and my upcoming move. And all the while, I was on the waiting list for a transplant and needed oxygen 24 hours a day. But that didn’t stop me. My children needed me, and I couldn’t let them down.

Like most human beings, I contemplated the idea of starting a family and realized that it was actually possible. The circumstances were favourable at that time. My health was good, I’d been in a relationship for two years, and our jobs and finances were stable. Like most people with cystic fibrosis, I found out that I was infertile due to a defect in the vas deferens. That’s when the great adventure of assisted reproduction began. I was very lucky in this regard. As I mentioned above, I became the father of two wonderful children after only two fertilization attempts. Both of these in vitro processes worked on the first try. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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