This guy caught the fish of a lifetime after a double lung transplant

MAYWOOD, Ill. — Before he developed a debilitating lung disease, outdoorsman Michael Olson had taken 57 canoe and fishing trips to Canada.

His disease, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, was so severe that Olson needed a double-lung transplant at Loyola University Medical Center. While rehabbing in the university’s inpatient rehabilitation unit, the seasoned outdoorsman set two goals for himself:

Return to Canada. And catch a big northern.

He accomplished both goals, in memorable fashion. As he tells it:

“One night I went fishing and it was raining out. Then all of a sudden, it stopped raining and a beautiful rainbow came out. Three casts later, I got the fish of my lifetime: a 43-inch northern. It wouldn’t even fit in the net. I was shaking for two hours – that’s how excited I was.”

Olson, 54, who lives in Milwaukee, was among 115 patients who were honored during Loyola’s recent 2015 Patients of the Year Celebration, sponsored by the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation and the Acute Rehabilitation Unit.

Olson and other honored patients were selected from among the hundreds of patients who each year undergo physical, occupational and speech-language therapy in Loyola’s inpatient unit. Patients were selected for showing qualities such as hard work, good cheer, dedication, a willingness to participate in therapy sessions even when fatigued and giving support and guidance to other patients.

“You have beat the odds to return function to yourselves and to also return to the community,” said Thomas Pang, MD, medical director of the Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit. 

Loyola representatives say Olson spent 3½ to 5½ hours per day in physical and occupational therapy. The nurses, therapists and physicians “pushed me and made me do things I thought I might not be able to do,” Olson said. “Every day I got better and stronger.”