83-year-old man has lived 66 years with one lung, run marathons – Guinness World Records

A great-grandfather living in Fairfield, Ohio, in the United States, has been chronicled in the Guinness World Records for living longer than others before him with one lung.

The 83-year-old Donald Cantrell has even run marathons and taken on triathlons, with one lung turning 84 on 2 June, 2024.

GWR on its X disclosed that the octogenarian has marked the longest time to survive with one lung as a male with a total of 66 years 204 days, as of 15 January.

It added that very soon, “it’ll be 67 years since Don had his left lung surgically removed.”

Despite having just one lung for the majority of his life, Donald Cantrell popularly known as Don has never considered himself to be disabled and has lived a very active life.

He told GWR, “I feel blessed to have lived long enough to achieve a Guinness World Records title that I never tried or even thought of accomplishing.”

Don’s record-breaking journey began when he was just two years old and contracted pneumonia after getting the flu. He was hospitalized in April 1943 and spent almost a week in a coma.

He regained consciousness and was allowed to return home, but his health condition deteriorated over the next few weeks and he found himself back in hospital.

When he was 17 years old, after finishing his second year of high school, Don said he was continually troubled by bad chest colds and coughs.

 A doctor examined Don and found that his left lung had been destroyed by an abscess and the best course of action was to remove it.

Abscess is an enclosed collection of pus in tissues, organs, or confined spaces in the body, and it is a sign of infection and is usually swollen and inflamed.

Disturbed about how the family would afford the surgery, Don disclosed that  his mother assured him they would find a way, even if they had to sell their farm.

Don was admitted to hospital in June 1957 for the surgery, and soon discovered members of his church had pulled together to raise the money to pay his bill.

“I was discharged on 4 July, with instructions to return for a follow up in a month,” Don said. “I never went back. I was doing so well it did not seem like I needed to go back.”

The first ever lung transplant did not take place until years later in 1963, according to Guinness world Records.

When Don had his surgery, it simply was nott a possibility to replace his damaged lung with a healthy one.

He said, “By the time this possibility became known, I was healthy and strong, having run many road races, including four 26.2 mile marathons. 

“Transplant never crossed my mind. In fact I did not think of myself as having a disability.

“Only my family and close friends ever knew of my lung removal. In competitive racing I never told anyone. Even today, most of my acquaintances do not know. I will tell them soon when the certificate arrives.”

Don went on to work in the manufacturing industry, marry his loving wife Janette in 1960, and welcome two sons and a daughter, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

And he also found his passion for running.

“I remained active in sports, I played basketball, softball, disc golf, bowling with my wife, and golf. Eventually running would be my sport of choice,” he said,

With practice and hard work, he went on to compete in over 100 races, running five marathons and completing several 30-mile triathlons too.

Don found that running had a huge positive impact on his health. His remaining lung even got bigger.

Don continued running until he was in his late 70s and unable to because of his neuropathy, a type of nerve damage.

His final race was The Shark Tooth 10k in Venice, Florida, in 2011.

He believes he has even run a marathon quicker than any other one-lunged athlete – completing one in Colombus, Ohio, in 1984 in 3 hr 37 min 2 sec.

Don said, “My competition in sports brought only benefits. I was never injured and never trained for a race I didn’t run and finish. It certainly strengthened my lung. 

“My lungs doctor, whom I visited for the first time earlier this year, in order to complete the application for the record, said that my right lung had expanded, so that my lung capacity is equal to 3/4 of a man with two good lungs. 

“My overall health dramatically improved when I began to run and become more active all the time. 

“I have rarely been sick in the last 40 years. The Lord blessed me greatly through running.”           

Don said he did not know what kind of longevity he could expect after having his lung removed.

He said, “I’m not sure what I expected, but I do know that other people that know about the surgery did not expect me to live very long.

“My brothers and I were at a local country store soon after my operation and the subject came up about me being scheduled to return to the hospital in Lexington for my check-up, and the store owner commented, ‘You will probably be doing that for the rest of your life.’

“Perhaps that is one reason I didn’t ever go back for a check-up. But I truly think I just didn’t let others influence what I thought, it was not up to me or them, it was in the Lord’s hands.”

Although Don cannot run anymore, he still walks an average of two miles every day. 

Source: GWR





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