A Story of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency: Dan Coffin's Journey of Finding Hope, One Plasma Donation at a Time

In 2011, in the quaint town of Wayne, Maine, a then-60-year-old Dan Coffin found himself facing an unexpected battle. Dan was diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a genetic disorder that impacts the lungs and liver. His story is one of resilience, hope, and the incredible impact of plasma donation.

Before his diagnosis, Dan had led an active life and considered himself physically fit and had served in the US military. However, his world was soon turned upside down as he began to have difficulty breathing through everyday tasks, like shoveling snow and mowing the lawn. It was an abrupt and alarming change that prompted him and his wife, Kathi, a retired registered nurse, to seek medical help.

Dan’s doctor conducted 18 tests before delivering the diagnosis: Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. The doctor's words were bittersweet: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we have a diagnosis. The bad news is there is no cure." This revelation marked the beginning of a new chapter in Dan's life.

For the past 12 years, Dan, now 71 years old, has been receiving plasma protein therapies to manage his Alpha-1. Remarkably, his wife, Kathi, has played an integral role in helping him with the infusions at home, showcasing the unwavering support that families provide in such challenging circumstances.

In February 2016, Dan's journey took another inspiring turn when he was hired as a coordinator by AlphaNet. This role enabled him to support and serve fellow “Alphas,” just like himself, helping them navigate the challenges of living with Alpha-1.

In 2017, Dan and several other Alpha-1 patients were invited to visit a plasma donation center. This visit had a profound impact on Dan, who had the opportunity to meet the plasma donors who made his treatment possible. Many of these donors had little awareness of the immense impact their contributions were having on the lives of Alpha-1 patients.

Dan recalls a poignant encounter with a young, African-American man named Carl. Despite their physical differences, Carl and Dan connected on a deep, emotional level as patient and donor. They promised to think of one another during plasma donations and infusions, forming a powerful bond that transcended race and age.

Dan's diagnosis prompted genetic testing for his immediate family members. The Alpha-1 Foundation's confidential ACT test revealed that his sister and grandson were also ZZ alpha -- a genetic mutation that raises their risk of both lung and liver disease.

Tragically, Dan's sister, who initially displayed no symptoms, later succumbed to liver complications from Alpha-1 at the age of 71. Dan's 17-year-old grandson, despite being asymptomatic, is making proactive lifestyle choices based on his diagnosis, such as knowingly avoiding careers like firefighting, and lifestyle choices like avoiding smoking, to protect his lung capacity, health and future.

In September, Dan and several other Alpha-1 patients took part in "Escape to the Cape," an awareness-raising bike ride event in Massachusetts. Dan's continued treatment with plasma protein therapy enables him to participate in such events, sharing his story and spreading awareness about Alpha-1.

Dan Coffin's journey with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency is a testament to the power of hope, family support, and the kindness of plasma donors. His story reminds us that in the face of adversity, connections can be forged, and lives can be transformed. As we cheer for Dan and his fellow Alphas at "Escape to the Cape," let's remember the importance of plasma donation in making their journeys a little easier.