In 2001, I was diagnosed with usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP) at a leading hospital on the East Coast. When I asked about a lung transplant they told me I was too old and that I had three years to live. I retired and sold my house in Maryland and moved to Pennsylvania so my wife could be close to her relatives.
While visiting a doctor at a local clinic I noticed a sign on a window that read "Pulmonary Rehabilitation." A couple of weeks later I asked my new family doctor what was it all about. He stated that it would probably help me and he would put me in touch with a pulmonologist at the clinic.
I arrived for the appointment and the first thing the doctor asked was if I had considered a lung transplant. I replied that I had and that I was told that I was too old. He then asked if I had a computer. I replied that I did and he said to go home and look up Inova Fairfax Hospital. I did, and made an appointment to see Dr. Steven Nathan.
I arrived at Inova and was impressed with the way the staff handled every detail of my visit. I brought all of my X-rays and my medical history and they told me I was a good candidate for a transplant. After going through numerous tests to make sure all of my other organs would hold up to the transplant I was put on the list for a new lung. This was November 30, 2004.
I was called three times to come down to the hospital for the operation. The first time I was turned around and told to go back home. The second time, I was there as a back up in case the first patient couldn't receive the transplant. I went home again. The third time I was in a bed prepped and ready to go to surgery in twenty minutes. The doctor came in and told us the lungs did not pass and that we should go home.
Just as I was thinking that this was never going to happen for me I got a call on August 30, 2005 (nine months to the day) and they asked if I would be a back up once again. I was driving south with my wife when we got a call to get down there as fast as possible. One of the patients lined up for surgery couldn't make it.
Things happened so fast after that. The next thing I knew I was ready for surgery and could only think about what they had told me about building up my right side because that's the side I would get a new lung. Going into surgery they told me I would be receiving the left lung. Fortunately I had been working on that side as well. I now have a great right arm and shoulder, so all was not lost.
Coming out of the coma that they keep you in to make sure you are breathing well, I was told to cough when they removed the breathing tube. I did and then I realized that I had to inhale. I breathed in and felt cool clear air rush into my lungs.
I now know how a baby feels when it takes its first breath.
They told me to expect to be in the hospital for ten days to two weeks, and to plan to stay in the area for another two weeks. I was up and walking the first day they took the tubes out and I was discharged after seven days. I stayed in the area for another four days and they released me to go home. I could climb stairs, walk for six minutes and through all of this I was at 95% oxygen. Prior to the operation I was on six liters of oxygen at rest and ten liters when I was moving about, and I was lucky to keep my oxygen level above 92.
It has been eight months since my transplant and there has been no rejection and no other problems at all. I am seeing my doctors every three months and along with myself they are amazed at my progress. I was asked if I would be the poster boy for lung transplants, but I never look good in pictures so I passed on that one. I think they were just kidding me anyway. The best day was when I called the oxygen company to come and collect all of the tanks and hoses. It is great not having a cannula stuck up your nose.
My lung buddy is also doing quite well and we talk every time one of us makes a visit to Inova Fairfax Hospital. He lives in Maryland and is the same distance that I am from the hospital. We plan on visiting this summer.
I cannot say enough about the doctors and the nursing staff at Inova. They, along with all of the nurse coordinators, have made my life better and given me more time to live on this earth. The care received while I was in the hospital was the greatest care a person could get anywhere in the world. I was very impressed with the care I received while in each and every level of care that I was in.
Thank you Inova Fairfax Hospital doctors and staff.