Eight years ago, I was an active guy. I had a great family and I was skiing, sailing, hiking and running a summer camp. At the time, I had no idea what pulmonary fibrosis was, and if someone had told me I would soon be on the waiting list for a lung transplant, I would have said they were crazy!
Today I’m a happy camper, but the road to my lung transplant was an extraordinary journey. To say it took a village to help me get here is an understatement. Along the way, I have been supported by great doctors and coordinators, family and friends, and most of all, a kind and generous donor who died, but whose lung goes in and out in my chest with every breath I take. Talk about amazing!
Before I got my miracle lung in 2012, I was on oxygen 24/7, and I’d been on the waiting list for a couple of months. When I got “the call” that a donor lung was available, I was on the phone all the way to Columbia-Presbyterian hospital trying to get my affairs in order…just in case.
Post-transplant life has its challenges, but for the most part, it’s been filled with great joy and gratitude. I treasure every day. Because my immune system needs to be suppressed with anti-rejection medicine, I’ve had two bouts of acute rejection and multiple bouts of viral, bacterial and fungal infections. But my incredible medical team has gotten me through it all!
Because of my frequent visits to Columbia-Presbyterian, I met a lot of other transplant patients, all of whom had stories similar to mine, and all of whom had the same questions as me: What can I do to help other patients? How can I repay such a life debt? After asking our doctors, the answer was as clear as a disease-free lung: help find a way to fund the research that will make lung transplants just another operation, with no waiting lists, and little or no post-transplant care.
Lung transplants have come a long way, mostly because of new surgical techniques, technologies and medications. However, there are still a lot of big problems we need to solve. We need to develop new drugs that will lower the risk of acute and chronic rejection – without suppressing the immune system so severely that patients can’t fight deadly infections. We need to find ways to rehabilitate the large number of donor lungs that are available – but not usable – for transplant.
Every day, scientists and researchers across the country are hard at work looking for solutions to these exact problems. And while cures for the underlying diseases that cause lung failure may be a ways off, breakthroughs with the potential to positively affect transplant outcomes are close at hand – and might even take place in our lifetime!
The Lung Transplant Project was created to help fund the research that will make life, breath and breakthroughs possible for thousands of patients worldwide. Behind it is the same group of patients, doctors, support staff, friends and family I met on my journey as a lung transplant recipient. Now that our 501(c)(3) charity is up and running, we’ve started sharing our story of hope and joy. Already, tax-deductible donations are coming in and we are really encouraged by all the excitement!
Now that we can get the word out through our website and social media, we’re hoping more and more people will support our effort to build a great transplant community. You can join us by subscribing to our newsletter, sharing your transplant story on our blog or Facebook page, volunteering your time, and of course, making a small, large or recurring donation that can move mountains and help us revolutionize lung transplants together! After all our lungs are a cause very close to our hearts – and hopefully, yours too!