I had been fighting Pulmonary Fibrosis for several years, even though I was only officially diagnosed about a year previously. I had O2 tubes all over the house as I was working my sales management job at home, for a month since I was told I was on the list and to pack a hospital bag. The call came around 11 PM, and the coordinator told me they thought they had a pair of lungs for me, I showered, and got in the car to drive down to UPMC a little after Midnight. I was calm and relaxed as I had Faith and truly felt these could be my new lungs, but also knew they could be rejected by my surgeon.
After being prepped the entire early morning, I got the nod, that I was going into surgery, and the stoic anesthesiologist said that the drug would make be feel like I was getting some tequila. I was so relaxed as family said good bye to me on the way to surgery, I sang a country song “Tequila Makes My Clothes Fall Off” which losened up all the tension for everyone. I really do not remember much more as the surgery started and lasted a dozen hours or so, and on 21st of April, I connected with my greatest Partners 4 Life, My Donor’s Lungs and my wonderful surgeon, Dr. Jay K. Bhama. Dr Bhama wrote the Foreword for my book.
While I was in surgery more family gathered, and my good friend, John (Sully) Sullivan. Sully was my mentor, and he had not lung transplant but two, plus a kidney. Sully was a volunteer at UPMC and kept the family posted on my progress. Sully was and still is a great Partner for me and my family. So his double lung is now 23 years old! He still helps so many with knowledge and the Catholic Faith if wanted to help patients find the healing words anyone needs after such a surgery.
My journey was not easy, and after getting out of ICU in a week, I went back for an entire month with a bad staff infection, and after two months from my surgery was discharged. That was quite a feeling, and started the process of thinking about gratitude for my Donor. I wrote my first letter to the Donor family in August, and that was the first time since my transplant that I felt I could write such a letter, signed Jim from PA. Sometime later I got a response from Travis from Kansas, my Donor’s oldest son and learned of her tragic loss of life. To find out she was a passionate nurse was like so special, as I spent 8 weeks with those nurse heros, that show their care and help everyday, to a patient like me less than nice at times. It was a couple more years before Travis and I agreed to meet, and we had a good first visit, and so many more since.
Travis wrote a chapter in my book about his Mom, Judy, and I keep that chapter handy to remind me what a wonderful person, Mom, family and relative connected person she was. But foremost she was a nurse and certainly my greatest Partner 4 Life, and why I talk about her and honor her memory virtually every day. She is why I say “Hey Jude” Thanks! and Keep The Faith is my mantra.
BTW, Judy liked Tequila I learned later and the country singer for that song was Joe Nichols. I never did drink Tequila well. The last irony. Joe Nichols is passionate about Pulmonary Fibrosis, because his Dad died from that dreaded disease. Great Partners come into your life in different ways and it’s up to you to recognize the ones that can help you most. Keep The Faith.