The harrowing journey of a B.C.-native who just underwent his second double lung transplant took a surprising turn after American billionaire businessman Donald Trump presented him with a suitcase of cash to ease his financial burden. 

James Reimer, 29, has been in Toronto General Hospital for the last eight months. The financial toll of living in a different city has been challenging for James and his wife, Adena.  With little to no income and minimal savings, Adena appealed for help on, a crowd funding website developed by business tycoons Bill Zanker and Donald Trump.  The couple hoped to raise $10,000 to help with medication and medical supplies, food, rent and public transportation.  But when “The Donald” heard of their plight, he flew Adena to New York for the site’s launch on May 8 and presented her with a suitcase of cash totaling $40,000.

“The Trump donation relieved huge financial burdens.  We are extremely grateful for it,” Adena told CTV News.

The Reimers’ journey has had its fair share of difficulties.  Born with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that results in a thick, sometimes fatal, layer of mucus in the lungs, James moved to Toronto when he was 25 for his first double lung transplant.  He underwent 10 months of physical training to be able to endure surgery and it would be another nine months before lungs would become available. 

James met Adena during his time in Toronto, and he proposed to her just hours before his first double lung transplant in 2011. 

While the surgery was initially deemed a success, his body started to reject the new lungs– and his lung capacity deteriorated to 25 per cent.  That’s when he was told he would have to return to Toronto for a second double lung transplant.

“Our lives were on hold,” Adena said. “There was no certainty or predictability and it was painful to watch him degenerate.” 

Even on life support and with lungs functioning at less than 10 per cent capacity, James remained hopeful and optimistic.  After being on the high priority list at the ICU in Toronto General Hospital for more than three months, the couple got the call they’d been waiting for on May 28: A pair of lungs had just been donated.

He underwent surgery within 24 hours of the call and James and Adena feel they are getting a third chance at life. 

“We’re overwhelmed with emotion, a lot of joy, and a lot of gratitude,” Adena said after the completion of her husband’s surgery. “It’s a long road to recovery, but he’s already exceeding expectations.”

The Reimers say their dreams and future plans include an active life on the West Coast, looking forward to the time when they can go camping, swimming, and hiking on B.C. trails.  They hope to live each day to the fullest and not take any moment for granted.  James misses his cats and hopes to return to finish his degree in Environmental Science at the University of Victoria.  The couple continues to share their story over social media platforms: Facebook and Twitter, as well as through their blog.

This third chance at life is not one many people experience; the Reimers are exceptionally lucky.  A large percentage of individuals typically do not survive the wait for a first transplant as donor lungs must match in both blood type and lung size.  James is also a high-risk candidate with this being his second transplant and risk higher chances for complications.  Along with the difficulties in finding a viable match, there is a critical shortage of organ donors, with more than 300 people in British Columbia alone waiting for organs.  An organ donor can save eight lives and a tissue donor can help another 75 people.  B.C. registration is available online through this link.