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My Transplant Journey
by Danny Spurrier

I was diagnosed with emphysema in 2000.  Of course I had it much longer than that and just denied it till I couldn’t go anymore like most folks do.  I even did not stop smoking until 9 months after I was diagnosed.  Shortly after that I was placed on supplemental oxygen at 2 lpm at nite and as needed during the day.  Within a year, I was raised up to 3 lpm 24/7 of supplemental O2.  The next 3 ˝ years were spent with my attending a rehab program in Winston Salem, NC, trying to continue fishing, and really just surviving best I could.  Then I was struck by the idea that if I did not get a transplant, I had very little time left here.  So I began researching transplant seriously in January 2005.

Made decision to go for it around mid-April 2005.  Went to Duke for evaluation for transplant in May 2005.  From May 2 thru May 6.  During evaluation, a heart stint was placed in right coronary with 70% blockage.  This was done only because of the fact that it would keep me off the waiting list.  This stint was accomplished within 1.5 hours after it was found on heart catheterization, a part of the evaluation process.  Other tests or procedures that are done during the evaluation include the following:  Heart catheterization, MUGA heart scan, Ventilation-perfusion lung scan, Pulmonary function tests, Blood tests (25 vials), Echocardiogram, Chest CT scan, Gastric PH/Esophageal Manometry Testing.  Other tests may also be ordered as part of your lung transplant evaluation depending on individual circumstances.  All vaccinations must be updated prior to transplant.  They are pneumovax, tetanus, hepatitis B flu and PAP smear and mammogram for females.  You will also need to consider financial, housing, and transportation needs.  The tx financial coordinator will contact your insurance company and inform you of the extent of your coverage.  They can also provide information on fundraising or applying for various forms of financial assistance. When all test results are available, transplant team members will meet and discuss whether or not lung transplantation would be the best treatment for you.  This will be communicated to you within a week following the completion of your evaluation.

Completed my evaluation with flying colors and was informed I was a great candidate for transplantation.

Began pulmonary rehabilitation at Duke University Medical Center for Living in early July 2005.  Finished 23 sessions at end of August 05.  Began graduate maintenance rehabilitation immediately.  Completed 18 sessions, was activated to the list on Thursday, Sept 15, and was called for transplant on Sunday, Sept 18.  All of my rehab to this point was done by my driving daily 94 miles each way to rehab.  Talk about tired!!  WOW!!!!

My surgery took about 9 hours and recovery was about 1 hour.  When I was taken from the surgery room to ICU, I was told that I used my new lungs to breath and was not on oxygen.  I spent less than 16 hours in ICU and walked from ICU room to the step down room.  Was released from hospital on the 5th day in the afternoon at about 3 PM on Friday.  Reported to rehab the following Monday to begin recovery process.  Another part of the process is that each week everyone has a clinic day each week, which means you cannot get 5 days of rehab each week.  Some weeks you cannot even get four days, as you may have to get a bronch done or something else like blood work, tests, etc. 

I am ending the recovery process presently and look forward to some of the pills being taken away from my daily ingestion – lol.  When I am released to go home, there are still certain things I will have to do: check weight each day, FEV/FVC each day, Glucose each day, temp each day, blood pressure each day – these must be recorded and taken with you to clinics which you have monthly, 90 days, 120 days, annually.  They keep a really close check on you after tx.  You must also get blood work drawn each week and results faxed to Duke where they will decide if your meds can be changed.

Other than being sore, I have recovered wonderfully.  Had on episode of rejection which was taken care of by 3 days of Solumedrol and a step down burst from 65 to 20 mgs of Prednisone.  I will be finishing my post op rehab on Friday, October 4, 2005 and will be moving back home (94 miles away) on November 11, 2005.  Since this is only 7 weeks after surgery, I think I have recovered well.  I am looking forward to getting home and beginning the process of returning to a normal life with my wonderful gift of new lungs and a second chance.  I also look forward to trying to finish up some of the things that I let go of while being sick with Emphysema.

I highly recommend Duke University Medical Center to anyone who needs to have a transplant.  They are the most professional individuals I have met and are very aggressive in obtaining organs for transplant.  They get many more offers than other centers because of their aggressiveness.  That alone makes it a great place to be listed.

Copyright Danny Spurrier 2005

Note: Prior to his transplant, Danny also wrote the inspiring article entitled Fishing With Emphysema  -- This story of a fishing addict with COPD traces the transitions and attitude adjustments that can be made to allow a COPDer to continue to do the thing he loves the most.

You may also want to read A loving daughters profile of her dad - written just before he received his call for his lung transplant - He will take your breath away by Cassie Spurrier


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