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Transplant patient Michael O'Reilly showcases his X-wing starfighter given to him by UHN staff.​​ (Photo: UHN)

For lung transplant patient Michael O'Reilly, Star Wars has become a source of laughter, love and support through a difficult time.

From top to bottom, O'Reilly's room at Toronto General Hospital is covered in Star Wars memorabilia, drawings, messages from Yoda, and even a homemade death star and X-wing starfighter.

"May the force be with you" has become a running joke between O'Reilly and registered nurse Chao Zhu. The two exchange the mantra during every encounter.

To carry the joke ​a step further, Zhu drew a picture of Darth Vader on O'Reilly's wall. It would be the first thing O'Reilly saw when he woke up from his transplant.

"I wanted him to be at ease and I knew this would crack him up," said Zhu. "Michael has been very calm through this whole process and I really want the best for him."

 

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Registered nurse, Chao Zhu stands beside his original drawing of Darth Vader. He wanted to cheer up patient Michael O'Reilly when we woke up from his lung transplant. (Photo: UHN). 

From there, the whole Star Wars theme took off. Staff made additional posters, a death star and X-wing starship.

"It's an instant smile-maker," said O'Reilly, who has never actually seen the blockbuster films. "When people came into my room before, they looked worried. This Star Wars stuff reminds us to have fun and keep laughing."

O'Reilly also has over 50 messages from family, staff and doctors hanging on the wall.

"I give out Werther's Original as a reward for people signing the posters," said O'Reilly. "I don't want to forget the people I have met here."

O'Reilly lived with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease for eight years before receiving a single-lung transplant in May.

After O'Reilly's transplant he was home for six weeks but has since come back, due to rejection issues. He'll soon be transferred to St. Mary's to be closer to his home in Kitchener, Ont. 

Plans for his memorabilia?

O'Reilly shared part of his collection with a fellow patient who was feeling down.

"It's amazing that staff would take the time to make one patient feel so special in a difficult time," said O'Reilly. "It lifted my spirits through this whole experience." 

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