David, who has lost three siblings to lung diseases, thanked the community for their overwhelming support as he now prepares to lead a group in running the New York Marathon this November to raise further funds for the lung transplant unit at Dublin’s Mater Hospital.
“All the people around on Saturday and, even after, giving of their time, through donations, it’s pure goodness,” says devoted dad-of-three David Crosby (42), who successfully hosted and completed a hugely well-attended charity 5/10 kilometre walk and run in the east Cavan town at the weekend.
Diagnosed with a rare and ultimately fatal lung disease in August 2015, it’s a miraculous turnaround for the Meath Hill native, who continues to count his blessings to be alive.
David was a year old when his sister Regina was born. She became ill when she was just 10 days old and tragically passed away aged seven months with lung disease.
His brother Paul was born two years later and he died aged two with lung disease. Doctors believed there was no obvious link between the deaths. “I remember things like it was a nice sunny day the day of the funeral, little things like that,”says David sadly.
His sister Anne Marie was next to arrive and was thankfully healthy and very much part of David’s life.
Then Ciarán was born when David was aged ten. Heartbreakingly, Ciarán also became ill at ten days and was diagnosed with Fibrosing Alveolitis, a condition of the lungs, eventually passing away aged just 11 years.
“Ciaran was special. Before he died, he wrote a book called ‘Too Many Angels’ all about his life. We finished it in tribute to him. If he was here there’d be another story all of its own. It was sad losing him, but it was great knowing him too,” explains David, who puts part of his fast-tracked experience on the transplant list and subsequent rapid and impressive recovery down to them.
Lung function test
When David first got sick in August 2015 it started out as “just a bad cough”. He, wife Katie and the couple’s three children Kiera (10) Darragh (8) and Erin (6) had returned home after living in New York. Their new lives back in Ireland were rocked just weeks after David celebrated his 40th birthday when an X-ray showed up a shadow on his lungs. “I went for a lung function test, it’s supposed to be between 80 and 120. I was down at 75, so they were concerned.”
A biopsy in September saw David diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a chronic illness characterised by a progressive scarring of the lungs.
He describes the news as a “kick in the stomach, it just doesn’t click.”
But if being informed you have a rare lung disease is not shock enough, the speed at which he first received treatment and, soon after, a double lung transplant was enough to send anyone’s head spinning.
“You just brace yourself, keep you head down and keep going. Take each hurdle as the next, what else can you do?” adds Katie.
By Christmas 2015 another lung function test showed David’s health going steadily downhill. “Almost straight away they said to me, ‘David, we have to put you forward for a transplant’.”
He was told to lose two and a half stone before being added to the list, which he duly achieved in half the time expected through simple diet and exercise.
“I got my weight off on a Tuesday and my first call on the Friday. From a Meath man saying this, I wasn’t ready for it, and I admit I couldn’t wait to see Cavan again.”
As it transpired, the transplant failed to materialise and David went back on the list, but the second call came less than a fortnight later.
“You speak to people who’ve had 10, 12 unsuccessful calls and I was on my second. I genuinely believe, whatever other people say, I had someone looking over me. Everything aligned. Because my parents put three white coffins in the ground, they went through so much in all our lives, I know people say to me isn’t it great [my parents] have you back for another chance.”
The walk at the weekend David says was done however with his lung donor in mind.
“We went to Mass the day before and it was an emotional day for myself and Katie. We were sombre because without that donor, Saturday wouldn’t have happened. I always have Regina, Paul and Ciarán in my head but, when I was on that walk, I was doing it for and with my donor in mind.”
New York marathon
Hoping one day to meet the donor’s family, for the time being David is happy to honour their memory as he, Katie, his mother Kathleen and 10 others prepare for the upcoming New York marathon.
David’s inspirational story and their combined efforts have had the added effect of encouraging others to take part in their own way, while also improving their fitness, and the group are regularly joined by up to 100 runners of all ages and abilities at weekly training sessions.
With the support of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland and the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association, David is honoured to now be raising money for the Mater Hospital’s transplant unit and transplant research. The auctioning of signed Irish jerseys live on radio recently raised over €3000 towards the cause.
David thanked the Kingscourt Stars GAA for use of their facilities at the weekend, McNally’s Pharmacy for sponsorship, and Andrew O’Brien and Barney McMahon of Base Fitness, Kingscourt for their support.
Bucket collections have been taking place at various events around the region, in Cavan and Meath, and there will be further fundraising events in the run-up to their involvement in the marathon.
“It will be roughly 600 days after my surgery that I will run the New York marathon. I will always be grateful to my donor. They’ve given me a whole new lease of life, one I’ll be forever grateful for.”