Eleven Years Ago Today 4/20/09 I Got The Call Tonight

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.

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UPMC Mercy Hospital Ethics Talk

It was my honor to share my Partners 4 Life story on 5/6/19 with the Ethics Committee Group at UPMC. Phyllis Grasser is the Vice President of Mission Effectiveness at Mercy and Carrie Stott and Barb Postol are both consulting ethicists at Mercy. It’s a good group of caring people at Mercy.

My presentation was focused on the value of organ donors, and how my book tells the story of dealing with an incurable disease like Pulmonary Fibrosis. The Gift of Life of my double lung transplant 10 years ago has afforded me this opportunity. I of course talked my Donor, and her oldest son, Travis J. Murphy and his family. I have been blessed with these gifts and try to honor both every day. Currently I am facing new challenges, dealing with Chronic Kidney Disease, due to the effects of the meds I take to protect my Donor’s lungs. Also most recently, an echocardio indicated leakage in my aortic valve, and the meds they have prescribed have been most challenging to adapt to, but it is a work in progress. The leakage is not as bad as originally thought, so I will try and be a good patient and follow this new drug regiment, because my foremost goal is to protect my Donor’s lungs. Keep The Faith.

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Good Fridays, Start Great 4 P4L!

This makes the 8th year I have visited the nurses at UPMC where I received a double lung transplant 10 years ago on 4/21/09. Three day weekends as a patient or nurse can be long hours, so I try and start their weekend right with a big basket of Sarris chocolate. The Sarris family from nearby Canonsburg donated many things over the years, and Frank Sarris was a kidney recipient. Their chocolate is more than just a stop along the road, and so is their generosity to organ donor matters.

There are two pictures one from the CTICU, and the other from 9D wing at UPMC. I am the one with the appropriate bunny ears!

These baskets are on me, and a small token of my appreciation for nurses especially since my organ donor was also a nurse. Her gift of life to me is treasured and protected over the years by listening to my doctors and nurses. I must admit I am more attentive to the value of the role of nurses over the years, and perhaps with guidance of my Donor’s wind beneath my wings. Keep The Faith

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Hamot Dash To Donate 4/7/19

Here we are after the first ever Dash To Donate 5K, hosted by Hamot and CORE and many other sponsors, like Partners 4 Life. This was held in Erie, PA at the beautiful Presque Isle State Park, on the best day of the year so far.  The event was well organized and the weather helped the turnout, which was well over 200, after expecting 150.  Great job by all the organizers, and many recipients and supporters were there, as well as Donor Families.

April is Donate Life Month, and this marks the 10th year of my double lung transplant thanks to my benevolent Organ Donor.  My good friend, Barbara Graziano joined me for this event and finished 2nd in her age group, and me, well let’s just say I finished.  That took a lot of Keeping The Faith.

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10 th Year of my Double Lung Transplant

I got a call from Travis J. Murphy, my Organ Donor’s oldest son a couple weeks ago.  He suggested getting together in Cleveland to see the Cavaliers / Milwaukee Bucks game. He said he thought it would be nice to do this to recognize the milepost, which will be on Easter Sunday, 4/21/19.  It took me about 2 seconds to accept his gracious offer, and I asked if I could bring Barb Graziano with me, who is a double corneal recipient.  The game was a week ago on 3/20, and the Cavs won, beating the top Eastern Conference team Bucks.

Travis works for the NBA and helps the players with International origins with all of the complicated Visa requirements for the players and also their families.  It is great job for him, with a State Department background and a love for basketball.  His Mother, My Donor, would be so proud of what he has done with his career moves.  Since his Mother was also a passionate nurse, who made it clear to her family her organ donation intentions. So when she passed as a 51 year old organ donor, they honored her wishes.  Her story is in my book, written by Travis and is my reflection shelter, when I get the next bump in a transplant recipient’s journey.  It can get bumpy at times, but when that happens and some one sympathises with me, I just smile and say, it’s ok, I got great Partners, and when it comes to Organ Donors, they rarely get a warning.  Keep The Faith, and Hey Jude!  Thanks.

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IPF Support Group UPMC / Hamot

My dear friend, Barb Graziano, who lives in Warren, PA saw an ad in the Erie paper about this support group in Erie and passed it on to me.  I contacted Josh Henry, standing to my right, is the Respiratory Care Practitioner at this location, and helps these patients, and I contacted him about coming to speak to the group and tell my story, about my IPF journey.  Certainly UPMC / Simmons Center was part of my talk, along with the importance of my Donor.  I will celebrate my 10th anniversary of my double lung transplant this April.  I always welcome the chance to talk about the importance of finding the best partners for dealing with the challenges of IPF.  I hope I helped some today.  Keep The Faith.

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Donation To Cardio Thoracic Nurses

Many of you have known that my organ Donor, was a nurse, who at 44 got her Masters Degree to teach other nurses, which she did.  A cerebral hemorrhage cut her life short at 51, and her lungs found their way to me in Pittsburgh, all the way from the middle of Kansas.  The passion she had for nursing came with her lungs, for nurses, like Kathy Lindell, and Shelley Zomak and so many others, like the ones in this picture who work at UPMC.  Ironically at her funeral, her students talked about her passion for organ donation and transplants and she no doubt instilled her passion into many of her students.

I presented these nurses a check today for the Judy Murphy Fund, which is used for the continuing education of cardio thoracic nurses like these people.  It is my way of honoring My Gift of Life, that I treasure and do everything I can to keep them healthy. The money comes from sales of my book, Partners 4 Life and P. Buckley Moss artwork titled “A Gift of Life”, and also some frame repairs in my frame shop, or just some people who give me donations at my shop.

Those in the picture are from left to right, Nancy Pepke, Sally Smales, Darlene Fink, That “Hat Guy”, Carol O’Neil and Larry Boggs.  I so blessed to have such great Partners 4 Life, and my greatest Partner, was a nurse named Judy Murphy.  Hey Jude!  Thanks.

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Busy Summer / 5th US Transplant Games

I have not posted much on my blog this summer since the 4th of July.  Busy year and took two weeks in early August to close my frame shop, and go to Salt Lake City for the Games, which were my 5th US Games, since my double lung transplant 9 1/2 years ago. The 4,000′ altitude and smoke from the western fires were a little challenging, but what Games they were!  So many attendees and a great set-up for the event.  My golf was not good, but had enough energy to finish and made more friends, played with some old ones too.  The greatest event was the Donor Tribute and ironically Joy Starzl attended the Games, who was the wife of Thomas Starzl, considered as the Father of Transplantation Surgery.  His book, “The Puzzle People” was featured at the Games, which were opened with Joy lighting the Torch for the Games.  Here she is with two double lung recipients, myself and Bill Cornell.  This was certainly one of the many highlights of the Games and I’ll post another post soon about the Utah National Parks.

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Firecracker Hot 4th of July

For my first time, I joined CORE volunteers to march in the great 4th of July parade in Canonsburg, PA.  Here we are coming up the main drag, called Pike Street, where I walked the whole parade route, or in my case 6,000 Fit Bit steps in one hour.  Passing out candy along the way, and so many little ones with red, white and blue, certainly brought impetus to my pace.  The temp was in the low 90s and heat index over 100 and the hottest day of the summer.  Well it was the 4th of July!

Thankful for my Donor and those of my fellow volunteers to stand up to the challenge.

Keeping The Faith, was easy that day, thanks to Organ Donors and our great Partners 4 Life.

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I Love To Share The Story

I was asked by the Friends of the Library, in Washington, PA to talk about my book, Partners 4 Life, which I always gladly do.  There was a nice turn out and maybe 4-5 nurses in the group.  That is the best for me, as I am so appreciative of nurses for the job they do for transplant patients especially.  Many of you know that I contribute profits from my book to the continuing education of cardio thoracic nurses at UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), where I received my double lung in 2009.

This library group was certainly interested in my book, and I donated a copy of Partners 4 Life, to their library, and a number of people also bought a copy for their own reading.  The kindness of the group, was expressed in a nice thank you note, where they also send me some pictures of my presentation.  The generous group also donated a check for my cause, and all it and the book sales will be passed on to the nurses I mentioned above.

My passion for nurses comes naturally, as my Donor was a nurse, who ironically was very passionate about organ donation and transplants.  No one wanted her to become a Donor at the age of 51, but her passion continues in her gift of life to me, as I tell her story virtually every day anyone stops in the old frame shop I run in a town just south of Pittsburgh.  All contributions to UPMC are made in honor of my Donor, Judy Murphy.

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