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Steve – Lung Recipient

In the summer of 2010, I contracted a case of pneumonia. The main symptom that I was experiencing was a persistent cough that just would not go away and breathlessness on what seemed like very little exertion. I made an appointment with my primary care physician, Dr. Ajit Nanda and, after examining me, he prescribed an antibiotic which seemed to cure the pneumonia, but I noticed that I still became breathless with very little exertion. I mentioned my shortness of breath to Dr. Nanda a few weeks later and he ordered a chest x-ray. In the image, he noticed cloudiness in both lungs, indicating generalized inflammation. He then ordered a computerized tomography (CT) scan which was performed at Hardin Memorial Hospital on August 3, 2010. The resulting report indicated “ground glass opacity in both lung bases” which may be indicative of chronic lung disease. Dr. Nanda referred me to Dr. Jose Mendieta, a pulmonologist in Louisville. A second, high resolution CT scan was ordered and performed on August 26, 2010. The technician reported “moderate interstitial lung disease noted throughout both lung fields.” After reviewing both CT scans, Dr. Mendieta indicated that I had a non-specific interstitial lung condition, but he did not give me any specific instructions regarding the condition. He did not make my condition sound very serious, so again I brushed it off as age and being overweight.

Since I was not in any real distress, I did not give the information much thought and went on with my business pretty much as usual. No mention of the possibility of IPF resulted from either the tests or office visits. At this time I was having very little difficulties getting around and doing pretty much whatever I wanted to. While I was having some difficulties with dyspepsia, it still seemed as if my difficulties were merely the result of age and weight. Perhaps, that was just wishful thinking on my part.

Sometime in early 2011, I had another bout with pneumonia, but again Dr. Nanda prescribed antibiotics that seemed to correct the problem. The CT scan image taken on March 29, 2011 shows the damage in the lower lobes of both of my lungs as compared with the scan taken seven months earlier. The report from the CT scan indicated that no progress of the interstitial lung disease was noted and there was no new enlargement of lymph nodes (adenopathy). As with the previous reports, neither I nor Dr. Nanda had any real concern about the report, since I was not having any specific difficulties.

In April 2013, I mentioned my increased difficulties with what seemed like ordinary activities to Dr. Nanada. He ordered another CT scan, performed on April 17, 2013. After reviewing that scan, he suggested that my condition might be IPF. He referred me to Dr. Tim Killeen, a pulmonologist in Louisville, KY. During that appointment, I completed my first six minute walk test, which “… measures the distance that a patient can quickly walk on a flat, hard surface in a period of 6 minutes (Crapo).” Dr. Killeen also indicated that my condition might be IPF, but that I needed to complete a surgical lung biopsy to know for certain. He explained that I would need to be in the hospital for several days and that the procedure would likely be somewhat uncomfortable. Being a little uncomfortable with the idea of a surgical biopsy, I made an appointment with Dr. Jesse Roman, the Chair of the Department of Pulmonology at the University of Louisville. Dr. Roman reviewed all of my CT Scans and concluded that a lung biopsy was not necessary and diagnosed my condition as IPF in May 2013.

In March 2014, after having completed six months of clear nicotine screens, I underwent the testing required to be placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list for a double lung transplant. A large number of tests were completed, including bone density, left/right heart catheterization, a battery of blood tests, and others. On May 7, 2015, I received the call from the Transplant team at Jewish Hospital that I should immediately precede to the hospital.

I became the 246th patient to receive a bilateral lung transplant later that evening. I woke after the surgery a day and a half later and was released from the hospital twelve days later. Since that date, I have participated in a number of stair climb events, half-marathon events, and shorter race events in an effort to raise awareness of IPF and the need for organ donors. I have been interviewed for television and radio broadcasts several times. I have become involved with a number of charitable organizations. I believe that I have been given a fantastic gift and a second chance at life. This is a debt that I can never repay, but I feel obligated to try. I hope that I will be able to serve KODA by raising awareness of the tremendous need for organ donors and the various diseases that kill because of the lack of available organs