30 Days of PF: My Journey as a Lung Transplant Care Partner

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Photo courtesy of Dana Olson

Day 1 of 30

This is Dana Olson’s story:

On Aug. 13, 2020, my husband, Kevin, received his life-saving call. He needed to get across the state to St. Louis within 4.5 hours — a donor’s lungs had been found for him! Talk about a swell of emotions. You know a call is coming at some point, but when it does, it takes your breath away!

The COVID-19 pandemic added quite a twist to having a family member hospitalized. We knew I was not going to be able to stay with him once he was admitted. And if I stayed in the hospital at all, it would be in one surgery waiting room, and only one person per patient per 24-hour period could be there. I knew I didn’t want to be waiting by myself during Kevin’s transplant surgery.

Luckily, my stepdaughter, Terri, had agreed to meet us in St. Louis. Terri was a godsend. I doubt she’ll ever realize how much it meant to me for her to be there. A care partner needs support, too!

The waiting for surgery to begin was tough as Terri and I sat in our hotel room. Then there was the fear that something might go awry. After hearing the possible complications that could occur, I began wondering if Kevin had made the right decision in going ahead with the transplant. But 4.5 hours after it started, we got the call that surgery was complete. He now had two new lungs and was doing well.

The recovery process in the hospital was a bit of a roller coaster ride. I spent virtually every day, eight hours a day for 30 days, at the hospital. The nursing staff was great, but Kevin preferred my assistance with bathing and hygiene. Then, post-discharge, I oversaw getting him to daily rehab and biweekly lab draws, X-rays, and clinic appointments. I hadn’t worked as hard in quite a few years!

Though I can’t say I loved every moment, I wouldn’t trade my care partnering experience for anything. And now I have a husband with no IPF!

Note: Kevin Olson writes the “Riding the IPF Roller Coaster” column for Pulmonary Fibrosis News.

Pulmonary Fibrosis News’ 30 Days of PF campaign will publish one story per day for PF Awareness Month in September. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofPF, or read the full series.

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