Living Life in Incremental Steps: Sports, Cleveland, and Happiness

Mark Koziol avatar

by Mark Koziol |

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After a lung transplant, a patient should not partake in some tasks or continue with certain behaviors.

For example, I used to love to do yardwork, such as gardening and keeping my lawn in shape. But my transplant doctor recommended against it. I can’t do other activities as well, but I miss these two the most. Now, I supervise the process.

I don’t live a boring life by any means. I travel and attend concerts and sporting events, which help me to continue living a grateful life.

I set my personal timeline based on upcoming events. I am not employed full time anymore, so some days feel similar to the weekend. I still look forward to the weekends, though, because my wife is off work and we usually have something planned.

The months between the Super Bowl and the start of baseball season are like a grace period in my life. No football or baseball means a major lull in my life. To offset this, I have a gathering on the Sunday that the Daytona 500 is held, which usually occurs around Fat Tuesday.

The gathering is like a miniature Mardi Gras party, and I make 10 gallons of chicken and sausage gumbo. It’s a welcome break from the monotony of the long, cold winters under the gray skies of Cleveland, Ohio.

Last year, I wrote about my Cleveland Browns after the team made some key acquisitions. Unfortunately, my excitement soon diminished when the season started. This was heartbreaking for me and for the other Browns fans. The potential for winning was there, but one can never accurately speculate about a team’s future. I hope the Browns eventually get it right and progress to a winning program.

Since my transplant, I have watched and taken part in several celebrations for a Cleveland team or athlete that won a championship. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA finals in 2016. It was an exciting time in Cleveland, as it was the team’s first championship victory.

When a team like the Cavaliers wins a title, it changes the entire demeanor of a city. Everyone has a little skip in their step, people are nicer, and an overall feeling of accomplishment exists, even though the fans don’t play. I was unable to attend any games or the victory parade, but because of my transplant, I was able to witness the events from the comforts of my living room.

Lifelong Clevelander Stipe Miocic was crowned a mixed martial arts (MMA) heavyweight champion in May 2016. Cleveland now has a fighting champion! Miocic epitomizes the city’s working class, and despite his fame, he still works as a firefighter. Soon after he won the championship, there was talk of his next bout being held in Cleveland.

The fight eventually was scheduled and I was ready to buy tickets. They were pricey, but how many opportunities would I have to experience an MMA championship fight in Cleveland? I bought the tickets and the anticipation slowly began.

In my mind, I believe that if I can schedule my life in increments, I can keep living. I know it doesn’t happen this way, but I need to have something to look forward to.

That August, I had a transplant appointment accompanied by a bronchoscopy. A major complication occurred during my bronchoscopy. While I had walked into the hospital with great gains in my pulmonary function, after the bronchoscopy, I ended up in the ICU for three days.

I spent three more days on the hospital’s transplant floor. When I left, I was on supplemental oxygen. I still had the Miocic fight to look forward to, and I planned to attend even if I had to lug my oxygen tank around with me.

Fight night came, and I rode with three friends to the arena. The atmosphere was electrifying. This is one of the reasons I love sports. They always help to take your mind off the stressful things in life.

I’ve been to many sporting events and concerts, but this scene was controlled chaos. It was the loudest arena I have ever been to, and Miocic successfully defended his title. I yelled and stomped so much that I had to increase my oxygen level to the max. But I still wasn’t at 88 percent oxygen saturation. The pandemonium lasted for 20 minutes, but by then, I was in bad shape. Yet it didn’t stop me from displaying my fandom.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk out of there. Luckily, one of my friends is a Cleveland police officer, so he approached a colleague to request a wheelchair for me. I took about 20 minutes to become stable. This wore me out, as only a couple of days had passed since I was released from the hospital.

Sports are important to me, but I also value the friendships and companionship that they bring. As a former college football player, I used to love the competition, but the thing I miss most is the camaraderie with my teammates.

Soon after this column is published, I will begin preparing my gumbo and I will start a new timeline. These are incremental steps toward living my life!


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.


Holly W Patient avatar

Holly W Patient

Hi, Mark,
I had a double lung transplant last March, and my daughter, Christie, writes a column for pulmonary fibrosis news (Courage to Care). Though I am not a fanatical sports fiend, I am a fan of the Golden State Warriors basketball team, and this became very important to me when I was hospitalized in San Francisco last year, from the end of December to mid-May. I watched every one of their games, usually with my husband bedside, and often in the company of a nurse, aide, or therapist. I was in ICU much of the time, and staff rarely had more than a few spare moments to watch, but many of them would wear their Warriors jerseys or other gear on game day, and we were united behind our team. It was a welcome respite from everything being about me. It was fun to realize that, for home games, our players were just a few miles from the hospital. I came to think of the team as my buddies, wondered where their houses were and what their families were like. I would look forward to the next game, at a time when I sure needed something to look forward to and care about other than, "when will I get my new lungs?"
Now I am home and healthy, and tnis season the poor Warriors are in need of a miracle. And so it goes...

Mark Koziol avatar

Mark Koziol

Hello Holly, thank you for reading and commenting. You have a wonderful story. You are so right, sports can have a positive impact on our well being, especially after going through a transplant. To me, it gives us an outlet where we can focus on something else just like you stated. I think your daughter is an awesome writer with a story to tell. Her writings resonates with my wife who of course was my caregiver. She thinks highly of her writings as well. Your daughter is an extremely caring person. I know first hand what’s involved when we need to be cared for. You should be proud. I have never communicated with your daughter but I will. Thank you for that extra nudge. Keep active and best wishes, mark .

Holly W Patient avatar

Holly W Patient

Thank you for your kind words, Mark. I started reading the articles in IPF News when Christie began writing for it, and have enjoyed your articles very much, along with Charlene's. It took me awhile to accept being part of this community, but now I appreciate the support and friendship very much.

Mark Koziol avatar

Mark Koziol

Hello Holly, we have a small community. Luckily we belong to two rare communities. Feel free to reach out if you have a question or just need to vent. Your daughter will be able to give you my email. Thank you again for your comments. Mark


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