Five months after receiving a double lung transplant, completing a 5K wasn’t necessarily something Shannon Mohn expected himself to be doing. But in the fall of 2019, that is exactly what he did, as he came to participate in our Grand Forks Marathon 5K race on that chilly Friday, September 27th.
A teacher of automotive technology at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead, Shannon is a lover of hiking and would often travel to Colorado to enjoy the mountains. In 2008 on a hiking trip, however, something was different. After falling ill with altitude sickness, he developed ailments that doctors and numerous tests could not resolve.
After going to Mayo Clinic, Shannon was diagnosed with scleroderma and learned this rare chronic connective tissue disease, although manageable with medication, had a very small possibility of attacking his lungs or esophagus.
After years of closely monitoring his condition, his doctors discovered that was unfortunately his case as the disease had begun attacking his lungs, which lead to developing pulmonary fibrosis – a lung disease that causes tissues to become damaged and scarred, making proper lung function difficult.
With this diagnosis, Shannon was faced with a life expectancy of 1.5 years.
He knew he would need a lung transplant in order to live. Mohn found an exceptional medical team at the University of Minnesota that worked with him to develop a progressive care and medication regimen that successfully staved off the disease for nearly 8 years, before falling sick in the fall of 2018.
After a few months of going in and out of the hospital, Shannon was put on the transplant list. About 2 months into being on the list – and with doctors giving him just 2 more weeks to live – he received a call. Mohn had been matched with a selfless individual who felt the call to become a donor, Zachary Mendoza from Wichita, KS, and underwent his double lung transplant surgery on April 22, 2019.
The transplant was extremely successful, and Shannon’s recovery went exceptionally well. With a new set of lungs and an inspiring sense of drive to make the most of them, he was presented with the idea – jokingly by a family friend, Kurt Sherman – to participate just 5 months later in the Grand Forks Marathon.
Even though he had never been a runner before, he thought “5k for 5 months post-surgery, not a bad deal,” and exclaimed, “I can at least walk it!”
Alongside his wife, Tracy, and 8-year-old daughter, Emily, and against all odds, Shannon came to participate in the 5K race. Finishing in 48 minutes, he recalls “we weren’t breaking any records” but he was thrilled to be participating in the race regardless of a finishing time.
Today, Shannon continues to stay active and is an inspiration to many. He and another individual started the Heart Lung Transplant Support Group in Fargo, ND, which has now grown to 25 individuals, and also encourages others to be organ donors (register here today) and help save lives. Mohn also has goals to finish in the top 10% of the Transplant Games 5K and to return to the Grand Forks Marathon to beat his previous finish time.
When it comes to running, “it’s a lot of hard work, but you just have to keep pushing,” says Mohn – “If a transplant patient can do it, anyone can do it.”