Thanksgiving is over, but my feeling of gratitude remains. As a single-lung transplant recipient, the holiday is a time for me to contemplate the tremendous gift given to me on Dec. 4, 2015.
I have just passed my fourth “lungiversary.” As I look back at my experience, I find it hard to believe everything that has happened to me in the past four years. It seems like a whirlwind of living after more than a year of suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). I titled my column “Gonna Live My Life.” And I intend to follow this mantra as much as my health permits.
The fourth year of success after a lung transplant is not well-documented. The statistics focus on 1-year, 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year survival after transplant. I am still here and doing fairly well. I schedule my annual transplant appointment close to my lungiversary date. I feel that I can’t enjoy the milestone until I see my doctor and the transplant team on Dec. 17. The affirmation I receive from my doctor is emotionally gratifying. I need her reassurance that I am doing well in my recovery. That’s why I choose to see my transplant team every three months rather than at six-month intervals. I live in the area and don’t see a doctor’s visit as an inconvenience.
Though I can’t truly celebrate my lungiversary until my appointment, I can express my gratitude. I am extremely grateful for Dr. Marie Budev and the transplant team at the Cleveland Clinic. She is one of the top physicians in her field and holds her team to high standards. I feel comfortable in her care, and my goal is to make her happy at each appointment by showing an improvement in my lung function or overall health.
I am fortunate to have offers of help from many friends and family members in my time of need. I can no longer do some things, and my wife, Rebecca, and I are incredibly appreciative of everyone’s assistance and friendship.
Though I couldn’t continue in my former position as an educator because of immunosuppression, I have stayed in contact with my colleagues. They were all extremely helpful before my transplant, and I could not have performed my work duties without their assistance. I often meet with my former colleagues or keep in touch by text message. Several of them are spiritual, and I love to hear that they still pray for me. You can never have too many people praying for you. I will always remember the care and love they showed me when I was going through my dire situation.
My wife has been my lifeline through this ordeal. She has done everything and anything I could have asked of her. When we said our vows, we didn’t envision the phrase “In sickness and in health” to be relevant so early in our marriage. We have been married for 10 years, and for five of those, Rebecca has had to deal with me while I have suffered from IPF, received a lung transplant, and endured the recovery period, which is lifelong. I don’t have words to adequately describe my gratitude for her. I realize that I have been extremely lucky to have her in my life.
I often think about my selfless donor. I wonder what kind of person he was and if we might have been friends. I have procrastinated about writing a letter to his family. I know that I need to do this for closure. I need to tell his family that their son, brother, or husband was a hero. After four years, maybe they need to hear how grateful I am for the gift of life that he gave me.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.