Transplant - A Personal View
"Is it for me?"
by Tony Hamel
This is the question that many COPDers ask.
Hopefully, this will help you in that
decision or in directing you to the right questions to ask your pulmonary
doctor or your primary physician.
The answer from these professionals will vary from
definitely "yes" to definitely "no." This is why you should always get at
least two opinions about a transplant.
The preferable doctor to ask is
the doctor most familiar with this procedure and that would be a pulmonary
specialist. They will normally refer you to a transplant hospital that
performs the surgery. There are transplant centers in almost every state.
The one thing about a transplant
is that you trade one disease for another, so to speak. You are able to
breathe again without oxygen support, but after your transplant you have
to take autoimmune drugs for the rest of your life.
This lowers your resistance to
disease and makes you more vulnerable to contracting disease. Also, the
drugs are hard on your system. Kidneys and bone densities are the most
Taking this into consideration,
almost all lung transplant patients will say they would do it again if
These are a few of the qualifications for lung transplants:
Many factors are considered for a
person considering or wanting to qualify for a transplant, including blood
type, tissue type, size and, of course, age along with other factors, such
as CMV (Cytomegalovirus) positive or negative. The center will
attempt to match the new lung as closely as possible to help the body from
rejecting the newly transplanted lung/lungs.
Series of tests
Anyone that is considered for a lung transplant must go through a
series of tests to qualify.
The medical tests usually include:
Laboratory workup to check many
organ functions, including kidneys, liver, heart.
Checkup for any ailments other
A heart catheraterization to
check for any blockages in the heart arteries and veins.
CAT Scan (Computed Axial
Tomography) of the lungs. This gives them a three-dimensional view
of the lungs.
(Ventilation-Perfusion) to get a better picture of the lungs and how
they are moving air and blood.
There is also a physiological
exam to determine the stability of the recipient as to assure they can
handle the medication regime after transplant.
Make your decision from what your doctor or doctors
recommend and then choose a center close to home because when it gets
close to the time of your transplant, you will have to be within two
hours of your center.
The waiting for your transplant if that is your decision can be a
challenge to you and your family. It is a stressful time. Waiting is hard
when your waiting for a new life. Medications can help with this stress
and anxiety and many transplant centers will recommend them. If so, use
You may and probably will get a " false alarm" call and possibly two or
three before you get a good "go for transplant." This happens when you are
called to the center because they have a "possible" match donor for you.
Please re-read the last sentence. I did say a "possible donor."
Sometimes the match is not good
and the surgeons will NOT jeopardize your life with a bad transplant. Many
things I have stated before have to be just right. Be prepared for the "
false alarm." The ride of the wait is like a Six Flags Roller Coaster.
Attitude will get you through most of the tough times. Believe in yourself
and your inner strength to survive and NEVER give up.
In most cases the recovery is quite remarkable. You will wake up intubated.
This is perfectly normal. Your new lung needs a little time to get to
working full tilt and the intubation gives it time to heal and get to
Two or three days in ICU and then a stay on the telemetry floor, so they
can still monitor your condition for possibly a week or 10 days. Then it's
on to rehab and your "new life."
Please understand, this is not all rosey all the time. I had a rough
start, but I would not change anything. I can breathe now. I will get to
see my grandchildren grow up and get old with my wonderful wife.
What more can a man ask for?
Your drugs after
transplant are like your oxygen before. They are what are going to keep
you alive. If you do not stick to the regime of medications you must take,
you will reject your newly transplanted organ and most likely die.
After a transplant, you will
have to have a support person or persons in place for three months. Some
centers say less time, but this is the most critical time after a
You will also attend pulmonary
rehab for a six- to eight-week period with up to three sessions a week
to get your stamina back after the transplant.
This may certainly seem like a
lot. But if you do decide and your in the condition to warrant a lung
transplant the outcome could be quite wonderful.
All lung transplants are not pure
success. This is a very serious operation and something not to be taken
lightly. Success rates vary from center to center.
There are many sites to go to and
read about lung transplants and some personal sites of those who have had
lung transplants. Here a few sites that you can go to and read about
http://www.2ndwind.org. There are
links from both of these sites to many others. Also, go to
http://www.google.com and just type in
the search window "lung transplant" and you find many more sites.
My Personal Experience
I had a single lung transplant on
Feb 9th, 2001 at approximately 11 p.m.
I am doing wonderful and my “Gift
of Life” has been exactly that - a pure gift. I can do so many things that
I thought I would never do again.
Please visit my Web site at
read about my transplant and what it has meant to me and my family. If you have any questions whatsoever, please
feel free to e-mail me anytime and I will do my best to answer whatever
questions I can. If I do not have an answer, I will find it for you.
"Keep on Keepin' on"