a friend in need
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Just a little more than a week later, although clearly still in pain, Danny feels like a new man. (Both Jorge and Marc have been released from the hospital.)
"Already I'm breathing like I haven't breathed in years," he whispers in a raspy voice from his hospital bed, surrounded by a stuffed frog, monkey and shark that Tizoc brought from home. "I can't wait to tell my son, 'We're going to do things that I couldn't do with you before.' I'm so used to the limitations. It'll be all changed, the way we manage our life."
There are get-well cards and shiny Mylar balloons and cheerful flowers, yet they can't obliterate the evidence of what Danny, thin and still pale from the surgery, has been through: IV lines drip medications into his arm, and tubes snake from his chest, draining excess air and fluid from his new lungs. But Danny's focus clearly is on the future. He talks excitedly about going snowboarding and about his two children and coaching Tizoc's Little League team.
"My son told me that this year he didn't need birthday presents," Danny beams. "His present was me feeling better. He says he wants to be a doctor to make me stronger. He's my little inspiration. And my daughter, Citlali, who turns 2 on May 31, is just a happy little girl."
And what of the gift his friends have given him? A reverent smile turns the corners of Danny's mouth as he searches for the words. "Ah ? How can I possibly repay them for what they've done?" he says.
For Marc and Jorge, co-recipients of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District's first Humanitarian of the Year Award, the lasting effects are thin, 7- or 8-inch lines running down their backs from the incision, scars from the chest tubes, a 15-percent loss of overall lung capacity -- "In real terms, that doesn't mean anything," offers Jorge -- and a greater appreciation for life.
"When we walked out of the hospital for the first time, the sun never shined so bright, the sky never looked so blue, the breeze never felt so cool," recalls Marc, an avid runner who plans to run a 10K in August.
While they liken the post-surgical pain from the doctors breaking their ribs to get to their lungs to being run over by a truck, getting hit in the chest with a sledgehammer or having someone jump up and down on them, it all was worthwhile.
"The bigger picture is that Danny is improving," says Jorge. "Everything else pales by comparison. It is just amazing to see Danny looking so much better and breathing with our lungs."