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“I could tell I had new lungs. I knew things were going to be okay.”

March 12, 2024

Beryl Brandson’s journey from patient to organ and tissue donation advocate

Beryl Brandson, surrounded by family, shortly before being wheeled into his lung transplant surgery.

In August 2016, Beryl Brandson received a phone call that would change his life. “Hi Beryl, my name is Yvette. I am a transplant coordinator at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. We think we have lungs for you. Would you like them?”

Beryl’s life story is a testament to resilience, unexpected turns, and the lifesaving power of organ transplants. Raised on a cattle ranch near Lake Manitoba Narrows, Beryl spent his summers working on the farm. “My summer holidays were spent on an open tractor bouncing around in a hay field—not realizing at the time that I was breathing in the dust from the hay and the fields. I thought when I came in at night, my face black with dirt, that it was just a sign that I had worked hard.”

After graduating high school, he ventured to Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, and began working in a mill, exposing himself to chemicals. His career took him underground as a miner for several years, when dust masks were not mandatory, and the environment posed potential health risks. An opportunity arose for him to transition to a role in fire protection and safety. Little did he know that these experiences would lead to health challenges down the road.

Beryl Brandson grew up on a cattle ranch near Lake Manitoba Narrows.

Around 2007, Beryl began experiencing lower energy levels and a persistent cough, which he initially attributed to his smoking habit. It wasn’t until 2011, prompted by a friend’s death from lung cancer, that he sought medical attention. Initially diagnosed with a lung infection by his family doctor, Beryl’s condition worsened. A chest x-ray revealed spots on his lungs, and he was referred to the Winnipeg Clinic where further investigation by pulmonologist, Dr. Lawrence Homik, uncovered a complex medical situation.

Beryl was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease where the tissue around the air sacs in the lungs becomes damaged. Despite quitting smoking in 2013, Brandson’s health continued to decline. In 2015, he faced the shocking news that he needed a lung transplant and was referred to the Transplant Clinic at HSC.

Beryl Brandson was placed on oxygen in the months leading up to his surgery.

Beryl went to the Respiratory Clinic at HSC and started seeing Dr. Nancy Porhownik in spring 2015. The transplant assessment process at HSC was rigorous, involving consultations with various medical professionals.

“When I was first told I needed a lung transplant, I was having a hard time with the idea that somebody would have to die so that I could live,” Beryl says. “Then, one of my doctors said something that really resonated with me—people die every day. The person whose lungs I was getting wanted someone to get them.”

In August 2016, the call came—the possibility of new lungs. The news was both relieving and daunting, signalling a new chapter in Beryl’s life. His transplant journey took him to the University of Alberta Hospital, one of the two places where Winnipeg patients go who require a lung transplant.

“The next thing I knew I was waking up in the ICU. As soon as my eyes opened, I knew I had new lungs. I could breathe. Even though I had the respirator helping me breathe, I could tell I had new lungs. I knew things were going to be okay.”

Beryl Brandson noticed an improvement in his breathing the moment he woke up from surgery.

Post-transplant, Beryl’s life in Winnipeg underwent a remarkable transformation. Breathing, once a struggle, became easier than ever. The support and care provided by the HSC medical team, including Dr. Porhownik and transplant nurse Clare Rubin, were invaluable during his recovery. Beryl now returns every three months to the HSC Foundation donor-funded Transplant Wellness Centre for check-ups and to HSC’s Respiratory Clinic for pulmonary function testing.

“After my surgery when I was lying in the ICU I made a promise to my lung donor that I would never do anything to harm the gift that he gave me, and that I would do anything I could to pay it forward,” says Beryl. Driven by this, Beryl cherishes the gift of life and takes part in speaking engagements on behalf of Transplant Manitoba. He shares his story with students across Winnipeg, stressing the significance of becoming organ and tissue donors and discussing their wishes with family. His experience has also inspired his eldest grandson to explore a career in medicine.

Beryl Brandson at his 60th birthday party—five years after his transplant surgery.

Beryl has heartfelt appreciation for those who have contributed to his second chance at life, recognizing the medical professionals who became instrumental on his transformative journey. He also applauds HSC Foundation donors and recognizes the important role they played in his experience.

“It is so important to donate to the HSC Foundation. We are all going to need the hospital at some point in our lives.”


Your financial donations make a difference in the lives of Manitobans like Beryl. To make your gift now, please click here to donate online or call us at 204-515-5612 or toll free at 1-800-679-8493. For more information on becoming an organ and tissue donor, visit


By Heather Milne