A Transplant Story

Deciding that you are willing to try for a lung transplant is only the beginning. Finding yourself in the middle of the process brings about loads of stress. Then receiving the call that you are going to be listed makes it all very real. This is the time that you’ll see what you are really made of.

Pete Schwob took this challenge “by the horns” ten years ago. (Although he did not have COPD, his lungs were badly diseased with very similar symptoms that COPD patients experience: very low oxygen saturation and the inability of the lungs to do their job.) When his doctors decided to have him pursue a transplant, he was unable to continue working and walking without getting winded was a challenge, even with oxygen.

He described waiting for the call as more stressful for his family than for himself. He kept the good vision that “everything would be okay” and relied more on prayer, not only his own but those of his family and friends, to keep the stress away.

I asked Pete what it was like in the hospital room while he was waiting for his surgery. He said, “It was like a party.” There was quite a bit of nervous energy along with family and friends actively trying to keep the atmosphere light, while he wondered what was taking so long to get back to the operating room. He remembers wanting to take a nap because it was so late in the evening.

Once he was with the anesthesiologist, he remembers talking to her for a few moments. Then he describes the feeling of going under as talking with her one minute and gone the next. For Pete, there were no complications with the surgery. It was a perfect match, and once he woke up, he was on the road to recovery.

Pete woke up just a few hours after surgery, he was connected to numerous tubes and a ventilator, and he described it as very uncomfortable. When the nurse asked if he needed anything, his only request was to go back to sleep because it was so uncomfortable. He remembers thinking it was a day later, but it was only a few hours after surgery.

Recovery is the hard part. It’s the time when the rubber meets the road, so to speak. One of his first breaths was difficult and occurred during a bronchoscopy only a few hours after waking from the surgery. He describes it as very painful because of the coughing, but he is also remembers how quickly he was up and walking down the hall, less than a day after surgery.

Pete described breathing deep each day, like “normal,” after the transplant and realizing that we all take each breath for granted. He has no regrets in going through with the lung transplant, and he actively volunteers with TransLife.

The day that Pete took time to talk to me about his surgery and recovery, he had just returned from a workout. Think about that for just a moment. He was exercising just before talking to me. The one thing that stands out in my mind was how strong his voice was after his workout. We talked for about an hour, without a need to stop.

Not all transplants are as successful and without complications, but it is important to become familiar with real success stories as you consider pursuing a transplant. Pete is celebrating 10 years of life with transplanted lungs. That is 10 years of breathing “like normal,” exercising, playing golf, and enjoying life with family.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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