Donovan Gobeil, right, poses with family members Sunday after completing the five-kilometre Summit Run in Prince Albert, along with his parents, Laurier and Beth, and brother Stephen. Herald photo by John MacNeil
Sunday was a Father's Day to remember for the Gobeil family of Prince Albert.
Less than two years after his double-lung transplant, 21-year-old Donovan Gobeil completed the five-kilometre race that was part of the sixth annual Summit Run along Rotary Trail.
His 16-year-old brother, Stephen, won the race in 18 minutes, 52 seconds.
Their parents, Laurier and Beth, also ran the 5K and gained a first-hand account of their sons' achievements on a sunny Sunday morning.
Stephen set the pace, but he knew Donovan scored a victory of another sort.
"It's really great to see," said Stephen, a competitive soccer player with the under-16 Prince Albert Celtic.
"He's been training hard all year. He's been working out almost every day. He's done really well."
Donovan crossed the finish line in 29 minutes, 25 seconds to place 32nd among the 158 finishers.
"The last kilometre was pretty tough, but with everybody out here cheering you on, it helps," he said shortly after the race.
One of his biggest supporters is younger brother Stephen.
"He's been my role model through this whole thing," Donovan said. "He never gives up and he's always challenging himself.
"When I was ill, I went out and watched him play soccer every time he was out there."
Donovan had his transplant in Edmonton in September 2008, the same fall that Stephen and his Celtic side went to the under-14 soccer nationals in Prince Edward Island.
"The transplant is something that we knew we would have to do in the future," said Donovan, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby. "We didn't expect that it would have to happen so soon, but I became quite ill quite quickly (in the summer of 2008)."
His mother recalled that Donovan had become "critically ill." He was transported to Edmonton via air ambulance and placed on a transplant list.
"Two days later, we got lungs, which is unheard of," Beth said. "Usually, the wait is six months to two years.
"He recovered very well after transplant. We had to stay in Edmonton for three months, and he worked so hard to recover.
"(But) he acquired a fungal infection three months post-transplant, and they told us it was 90 per cent fatal. They did not expect him to survive it, but he kicked that, too. So, he really is a fighter. It's amazing."
Donovan persevered through illness in junior high and won the Terry Fox Award for his efforts in doing so. And he graduated from Carlton with honours in 2006, despite prolonged periods of sickness during his high school years.
Donovan now lives in Saskatoon and, as Sunday's showing would attest, he leads an active lifestyle.
"I started running," he said. "Well, I started cycling in the basement, because I couldn't run outside in the winter. Then, I just decided to try this (race) out a couple of weeks ago, and did a trial run Friday around the course and felt I could do it, and came out today and did it.
"Now that I know I can do it, I can train properly and push my limitations."
There was no limit to the pride that the Gobeils experienced after Donovan's heroic run.
"It was a great day, and I was so proud of Donovan for everything he's done," Beth said. "That was just icing on the cake, seeing him run like that. It's awesome."
His story underlines the impact that organ donors can make in the lives of others.
"We so heartily believe in people signing their donor cards," Beth said.
"Where would we be if that family, in the midst of their tragedy, would have said no to signing their donor card for their deceased loved one? It's so vitally important."
Donovan paid tribute to his donors Sunday.
"He said it's a victory not only for him, but for his donor family," his mother said.