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The Madera Tribune

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Matt De Fina goes on transplant list again

November 17, 2019

Courtesy of Sherri De Fina

Matt and  Denise De Fina with daughter Gracie celebrating Matt’s 42nd birthday on Nov. 4th.

Matt De Fina, a Madera native and Napa County Proprietor/Vintner at De Fina Family Cellars has been placed on the double-lung transplant list for a second time in a determined effort to defeat his lifelong enemy — cystic fibrosis. 

 

After living life to the fullest with the new lungs he received in 2012, De Fina’s body is fighting to reject the organs that have kept him alive for the past seven years.

 

The rebellion by Matt’s body against his new lungs is not something new. The rejection began approximately one year after the surgery. His condition was diagnosed as chronic, and since that time, he has undergone treatments every six weeks, which stabilized the rejection. 

 

However, for the past two years, Matt has been hit with numerous viral and bacterial infections, which have caused the rejection to worsen. With his lung function at 24 percent, the transplant selection committee at Stanford University unanimously approved the 42-year-old De Fina to receive another transplant. He has been officially added to the transplant list to receive another double-lung transplant. 

 

In the meantime, Matt, his wife Denise, and their 11-year-old daughter, Gracie, wait for that phone call that will send them to the hospital for new life once more.

 

Matt De Fina was only four weeks old in 1977, when his parents, Chuck and Sherri De Fina were told they would probably have their baby for just a few years and then they would lose him to that terribly debilitating disease.

 

It came as a devastating blow to the young parents, both of whom were teachers at Madera’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School. They and the medical community would fight the disease as best they could with the resources they had at the time, but they still lived with the near certainty that in the end they would bury their child someday. 

 

The De Finas continued to battle the disease. Matt went off to college, went into pharmaceutical sales, and married Denise Grigsby. He earned an MBA from St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia. In 2008, they brought their eight week-old daughter Gracie home, and she very quickly became one of her father’s favorite cheerleaders. 

 

Matt’s 20s were actually fairly healthy years, but when he turned 30, the inevitable raised its ugly head. Matt’s enemy turned more aggressive. In April 2012, he hit his worst point and was admitted to Stanford. His lung function was down to 22 percent, the lowest by far that it had ever been.

 

On April 26, 2012, Matt went on the lung transplant list. On the night of May 14, Chuck De Fina got down on his knees before retiring for the night and prayed. It wasn’t a fancy prayer; it wasn’t part of a ritual. It was the simple prayer of a man of faith. 

 

“God,” Chuck prayed, “I surrender my son to you because you surrendered your Son for me.” He didn’t ask for healing; in fact, he didn’t ask for anything. He just prayed a simple prayer of surrender and went to sleep. 

 

That was at 9 p.m., and the pivotal phone call came the next morning at six o’clock. Twelve hours later, the surgeons began the operation. 

 

At 10:30 p.m., the doctor told Denise they were closing Matt up. The surgery went great, and her husband had two new lungs! 

 

Now they are waiting again for the miracle that will allow Matt to live life to the fullest — to continue participating in the national and world transplant games, to coach Gracie’s basketball team, and a hundred other things.

 

Meanwhile, all of the family and friends are joining the chorus of hundreds who are giving thanks that the enemy that was defeated once, will be defeated again, once and for all.

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