By the age of 40, a lifetime of lung infections had taken its toll, and McLaughlin was diagnosed with bronchiectasis, a rare form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The disease hampered his ability to breathe, and by age 45 he had to stop working and relied on a ventilator to breathe.
McLaughlin continued to visit the YMCA a couple times a week, and was active with Sudbury's Lung Disease Support Group, but for the most part, he was homebound.
Even cleaning his home required too much effort, and McLaughlin had to rely on hired help for basic tasks.
By his early 50s, McLaughlin's condition worsened to the point where his doctors decided he would be a good candidate for a double-lung transplant.
He was added to the transplant list in late 2012, and due to some good luck, had his surgery six months later, on March 29, 2013.
McLaughlin has a rare blood type and when matching lungs were available he was the only person on the lung transplant list for Toronto General Hospital that could receive them.
“I know people who have waited three years,” he said.
The identity of his lung donor is confidential, but McLaughlin said he was allowed to write a letter that was later delivered to his donor's family.
“I thanked them,” McLaughlin said. “I'm so grateful for everything that family went through.”
He said he grieved for his donor, because their life had to end so their lungs could be used to save him.
Since his surgery McLaughlin has become a strong advocate for organ donation.
“I think everybody should sign up to be a donor,” he said. “If you're willing to get a transplant then you should be willing to sign up as a donor.”
In December 2013, around 46 per cent of Sudburians were registered with the province's organ donor list.
In outlying communities like Lively, Garson, Hamner and Val Caron the numbers are even higher, surpassing 50 per cent.
In contrast, only 13 per cent of Toronto residents are registered with the provincial organ donor list.
There are currently 1,538 people waiting for an organ transplant in Ontario.
Every three days, one person on that list dies waiting.
McLaughlin said he would encourage people to visit beadonor.ca to make sure they are registered as organ donors.