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What Happens If I Am Denied A Lung Transplant?

This is a question that I can answer from personal experience. In 2009, mom was given the opportunity to go through a thorough evaluation at the Duke Transplant Center at Duke University.  We were so excited and nervous!  Her doctor had prepared us for either outcome.  She gave us the pros and cons of the transplant, and she assured us that if mom was not given the transplant, she would be there for us as always.

After the full week of tests, mom was exhausted but glad it was over.  We went back home to wait for the decision from the team.  I had to work out of state, and received the news that she would not be receiving the transplant while hundreds of miles away.  She had passed every test, except her last one.  I will not go into details because medicine advances so quickly, and I would never want you to count yourself out because of something that may not be an issue anymore.  Needless to say, we were disappointed, but we had been praying that if the transplant would not benefit her that God would block it.  We tried our best to lean into the answer from the team as an answer to our prayers, but it was hard.

So with the transplant off of the table, now what?  For some, there is a surgery called a lung reduction that can substantially help COPD patients.  Basically, the surgeon will remove the portion of the lungs that are damaged, allowing more room for the healthy lungs to do their job.  If you are not eligible for a transplant, this should be considered.  Talk to your pulmonary physician about all of your options, as there may be more once you get closer to really exploring the options.

Mom was not eligible for the lung reduction surgery either because the damage to her lungs was so widespread.  It was not focused in one (or a few) area(s), so for her, it was status quo.  Not receiving a transplant only meant that we would continue along the path that we were traveling.  She would continue medications and treatments as usual.  She would continue living out the COPD life that she knew.

Not receiving a transplant for COPD is not a death sentence.  Yes it would have been wonderful for her to have new lungs and be able to breathe again, but there are the what-ifs.  There is a reason that the team decided not to give her new lungs.  They believed that the risk of something going wrong in the surgery outweighed the benefit of trying.  This is why there is such extensive testing, to find out if your body can handle such a major surgery.  They obviously believed that she would have complications that could be detrimental to her health and possibly take her life.

After she was denied the transplant, mom lived almost eight more years.  She saw two grandchildren and one great-grandchild born.  She was there to help my brother and I through tough times and decisions, and she continued to live out a life of love and courage.

What happens if you are denied a transplant?  Life continues.  There will be good days and bad days, just as there were before, and you will learn to cherish each day even more.

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