This is a guest blog post from Jim Nelson, an individual living with COPD. Read more…
Posts Tagged lung transplant
I was able to catch Jack Hollenbach while he was on his daily early morning stroll with his 3-year-old German Shepard, Hula.
“We walk 3.5 miles every morning. It’s something I never dreamed I’d be able to do a little while ago,” Hollenbach says.
Hollenbach says he first noticed something was wrong while on a fishing trip at Apache Lake, outside of Phoenix, AZ. Climbing up an embankment Hollenbach found himself out of breath. Between that time and being officially diagnosed with COPD, Hollenbach received a Bachelor’s Degree from DeVry University and began a new job working for W.W. Smith Construction in December 2005, which required him to get an annual physical.
In November 2006, Hollenbach went to the doctor for his annual physical. That’s when he was diagnosed with COPD.
“I kept thinking I was just getting older, and unfortunately, that’s what my mother thought, too. She died from COPD,” Hollenbach says. “She smoked for a couple years but nothing heavy. She had scarlet fever when she was younger and they attributed [her breathing problems] to that, rather than smoking. She quit 20 years before she was diagnosed. And I quit, but I didn’t show signs of COPD until after I quit smoking.”
Hollenbach says he went to work the next day with an oxygen tank in tow, which surprised his co-workers.
He says it was an immediate change and adjustment – going from feeling winded all the time to carrying oxygen all the time.
A year later, he suffered an exacerbation and was hospitalized. During his two-week stay, he lost 40 pounds and says he was so weak he couldn’t walk across a room without having to stop to catch his breath. It was at this time his doctor suggested a lung transplant for him.
Making a trip to the University of California, San Diego, Hollenbach became familiar with the transplant program, where he got evaluated.
“I still remember meeting Dr. [Gordon] Yung for the first time. Dr. Yung told me that the transplant was not a cure for my COPD, rather, we would be swapping one disease for another. If successful, I would be on medications for the rest of my life,” Hollenbach recalls.
On August 2, 2007, Hollenbach got the call from the hospital. Post-surgery, Hollenbach recalls waking up and taking his first breath with new lungs. He had received two operations in a 24-hour period.
Hollenbach says he wants to share his COPD story because he believes there is always hope for COPDers.
“All of a sudden with COPD you can’t do the simplest tasks that you thought you could do. It’s amazing how people take breathing for granted. It’s just something you do all the time,” Hollenbach says. “All of a sudden one morning you wake up and you can’t breathe, but there’s hope because there’s things that can be done.
Encountering a few bumps in the road since transplantation – he’s been hospitalized twice – Hollenbach says, “Life is good!”
“Always push yourself and try to do a little more everyday. Even when I was sick and feeling sorry for myself – it didn’t do me any good,” he says. “Really, it’s a matter of choice. You can lay down and let the disease beat you, or you can try to beat it by fighting back.”
For many COPDers, lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplantation are two topics of conversations they’ve already had with their pulmonologists. Though it might not be an option for some COPDers, others find surgery as the best route to breathing and living better with COPD. In this blog, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the two procedures and how some people prepare for the big day.
Lung Volume Reduction Surgery, LVRS, is a surgery that’s become more common recently but was developed years ago. LVRS does what it stands for: it surgically reduces the size of your lungs in order to help your lungs function better. According to the physicians who wrote the COPD Big Fat Reference Guide ®, LVRS is based on two beliefs. First is that a removal of a nonworking areas of the lungs allow less affected areas to expand into that space leading to more efficient lung function. The second belief is removing areas of the lung are over-inflated and nonworking, making the lungs smaller and more efficient.
Back in the 1990s, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) funded a study called the National Emphysema Treatment Trial, or NETT. NETT set out to find out with LVRS was in fact beneficial to patients and develop some sort of criteria for identifying COPDers who would benefit from the surgery. 1,218 individuals were selected for the trial, and about half (608) were scheduled to have LVRS. Researchers found out that, on average, COPDers with severe emphysema who underwent LVRS were more likely to breathe better and don’t face an increased risk of death for having the surgery. There were some critical risks identified, however.
Lung transplantation is a more involved approach to improving a COPDer’s lung function and is reserved for extremely severe diseases. There are strict criteria a COPDer must follow in order to be eligible, including not having any other diseases and have a stable enough mental state to tolerate the stress surrounding the surgery. There are many decisions to be made, including getting a single or double lung transplant.
Everyone who is qualified for a lung transplant needs to get on a list to wait for a donor (read about the list on UNOS.org). If you’re already on the list for transplant, check out this handy checklist from the Cleveland Clinic to help you get ready for the big day.
Though the surgery can be intense, many COPDers have found it to give them their lives back. These two procedures aren’t for everyone but talk to your doctor if you feel this might help you.
Judy Russell’s life changed on August 15th, 1999. At the time, she was at a transplant picnic Read more…
Sherry Stover quit smoking as a promise to her 12-year-old daughter, and Read more…
This blog post was written by Penny Hart, a COPDer living in Oxfordshire in the UK. Read more…
Orlan Holmes, 59, says when he was diagnosed with COPD, Read more…