Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Importance of Organ Donation

Time moves so quickly.  Some events in the past few years have been misplaced on the timeline.  But, here's how I remember it...

About a year and half ago, my dad started to have some problems breathing. Initially, the doctors thought that he had COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.  Through further testing, it was found that he has IPF, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, in both lungs.  I explain it to others as the gradual transformation of the lung tissue into scar tissue.  The cause is not completely understood, and unfortunately there are no consistent treatments or medications.  For the most part, a lung transplant is necessary when the disease progresses far enough.  It progresses at different rates for different patients, so there is really no telling your condition in 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc.

Realizing that a transplant was the best course of action, my dad enrolled in the Duke University Hospital Lung Transplant Program.  After testing, counseling, and lots of waiting, he got the green light to move from his comfortable home in Andalusia, AL, to a Residence Inn in Durham, NC.  This occurred at the beginning of July.  He started the "pre-hab" physical therapy program to gain strength, endurance, and improve his overall health.  They put him on the actual transplant recipient list on Tuesday, September 6, and on the night of Saturday, September 10th, he got a call that they might have a lung for him!  After waiting 12 hours at the hospital, they decided that the lung would be split and go to 2 other patients on the list.  Right after, they said they had another potential donor!  After another 12 hour wait, they prepped him for surgery.  This was no ordinary lung transplant.  My dad had an enlarged pulmonary artery (very rare) due to a faulty heart valve.  So, the surgeons did open heart surgery as well.  Dad got one lung, a new pulmonary artery, and a new heart valve.  The other half of the lung went to another patient.  Despite the extra surgery requirements, the surgery took a much shorter amount of time than estimated.

The surgery was completed yesterday morning, and Dad is already doing laps around the ICU!  The hospital staff is absolutely amazed at his progress so far.  He will be in ICU for only another day or 2 hopefully.  He is waiting to do a swallowing test today so he can actually drink something.  And, he'll be getting a routine lung biopsy to check for signs of lung rejection.  No cell phones are allowed in the ICU, so I haven't been able to talk to him yet, but I am constantly being updated by his wonderful support system: my step-mom CJ, my step-brother Matt, and my sisters Maria and Nicki.  How I wish I could be there!

My dad was very lucky to have a successful transplant.  Not all patients and families are so lucky.  I don't know what I would do without you, Dad.  I couldn't roll my eyes at your jokes or be secretly envious of your knowledge of photography.  You have always meant a lot to me, but the past few months have really opened my eyes.  I can't wait to see you again!  And, have a speedy recovery so you can see your grandkids again!

P.S. In the 24 hours from when my dad got the call from the hospital until his surgery was completed, 2 donor lungs saved 4 lives.  Thank God for organ donors.

P.P.S. To read more about my dad and to donate to his transplant fund, please visit EverRibbon.

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