Penticton man gets second shot at life

Mike Watson and partner Lisa Needoba on the grounds outside of Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong this week. According to doctors Mike is doing very well following the transplant surgery earlier this month. Lisa was the donor and has since been released.  - Special to the Penticton Western News
Mike Watson and partner Lisa Needoba on the grounds outside of Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong this week. According to doctors Mike is doing very well following the transplant surgery earlier this month. Lisa was the donor and has since been released.
— image credit: Special to the Penticton Western News

Last month a Kaleden couple was thinking about a funeral not the future.

However, now Lisa Needoba and partner Mike Watson  are once again looking forward to raising their young family together

In an emotional interview this week from Hong Kong, the pair spoke publicly for the first time about their arduous journey and the 20-hour surgery to transplant a portion of Lisa’s healthy liver that Mike immediately needed to save his life.

“Back then, when I had a quiet moment, my brain would drift to what Mike would want at his funeral and now I’m imagining all of us back in Kaleden playing at the beach. It’s a massive change from what we were expecting,” said Lisa on Thursday prior to leaving her rented apartment to visit Mike at Queen Mary Hospital where he continues to recover.

“We had to go to great lengths to change that course.

I’m at a loss for words, both of us are, at the level of support that we’ve received and we’re eternally grateful. I’ve never been able to say that in a way that meant so much.

“I can now face my kids and say we did everything we could and we succeeded and these are the people who made that possible.”

That included Mike’s older brother Spencer who worked tirelessly to find a way to save him from dying, to the strangers who volunteered to be donors.

“Near death experiences can profoundly change your perspective on life,” said Mike from his hospital room. “This is just the beginning. I have a long way to go with recovery. I know I have a second chance at life.

“At least there is hope I get to spend time with Lisa and my kids again.

“The support we have received has reaffirmed my faith in the human spirit. It has been extremely humbling and overwhelming. It helped give me the drive to do what we did, and not give up. Dying would have been the easy way out but it would have been selfish and unfair on my kids, family and community who have shown so much care.”

Despite their post-operative conditions, both remember their first visit after the March 1 transplant procedure.

The first time I saw Lisa after I woke up was the best gift I have ever received,” said Mike. “Going into surgery all I could think of was I just hope I wake up. I was certain that Lisa would be OK, I just didn’t want to go home in a tin can.”

Added Lisa: “I just said to Mike it was amazing to see both of us to come out the other side and to be able to see each other and have that incredible relief, like oh my God we made it through this hurdle, we’re both alive.

“That was the biggest hurdle, are we going to make it through surgery, I was pretty sure I would but I didn’t know if he would.”

Last December Mike suffered a sudden and massive internal hemorrhage, barely surviving the night.

Doctors in Vancouver determined he would need a liver transplant which would not be possible in Canada for at least six months.

That was six months Mike did not have and so the decision was made to go out of country, but it came with a quarter-million dollar price tag.

So far over $141,000 has been raised through the crowdfunding website,

The couple has three children, Aidan, 10, Laila, seven, and four-year-old Shae who has osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bone disease often resulting in multiple bone fractures.

From the outset they had the very real concern either one or both would not return. Before leaving they did everything in their power to mitigate all the circumstances should the worst happen.

“I knew full well I wouldn’t see them again or be there for them if I didn’t go,” recalled Mike. “I chose my words very carefully for each one of them in our goodbye conversation before we left. I gave them each a Valentine’s card with those words written, down in hope they will be remembered. I wouldn’t wish that situation on my worst enemy.”

Although they did not tell the children everything, the youngest were content with limited information, they had several long conversations with Aidan before leaving.

The 10-year-old, who is staying with family friends in Kaleden, had his first opportunity to see and talk to his dad via FaceTime just several days ago.

Lisa was told later by her friend the youngster was “over the moon” with excitement after the call.

Mike and Lisa first met in high school in Oliver where they were living and have been a couple ever since.

“Mike was graduating and I was in Grade 11 and I never ever, ever imagined that we would go through something like this together, life has the craziest twists and turns it’s mind boggling what’s taken place,” said Lisa.

The good news now is they may be back in Kaleden early next month possibly in time for their oldest son’s 11th birthday on April 7.

Having both parents home will be the greatest gift, not just for Aidan, but the entire family.


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