The Brooklyn Bridge leading to a pair of lungs

New Lungs!

Sometimes I fantasize about having new lungs. Seriously. I’ve applied for a lung transplant and I’m making progress.

Catch-22 situation

But, it’s kind of a “Catch-22” situation if you’re familiar. You have to be sick but you can’t be too sick. Your forced expiratory volume (FEV) numbers have to be pretty low. As I’m sure you know, FEV measures how much air you can exhale during a forced breath. The amount of air exhaled may be measured during the first (FEV1), second (FEV2), and/or third seconds (FEV3) of the forced breath. In other words – just having COPD doesn’t quite do it.

Damanged lungs, healthy body

And while your lungs obviously must be damaged, the rest of your body has to be in pretty good shape in order to sustain the actual transplant. Your heart, your circulation system – there’s a number of factors and examinations that are taken into consideration before you “make the list.” And since COPD is progressive, we’re hoping it’s just a matter of time before I make the list and a donor is sought.

Picturing better breathing

In the meantime, on a cloudy fall day, when I’ve finished reading a book or The New York Times and my mind wanders, I picture a number of things involving much-improved breathing. I was never a big athlete. I ran track in high school – cross country and the quarter-mile. That’s how long ago it was. The quarter-mile is now the 400 meters event. I enjoyed it but, I wasn’t very good at it.

We were an urban, boys Catholic High School so there was no place for a football field – and so no place for football. And our baseball team was very good and only those particularly blessed with athleticism could play. So, the rest of us either joined the Drama department or ran track. I can remember being able to run almost 5 miles (x-country) at a good clip without getting particularly “winded.” And I did that for freshman and sophomore years. Then I started smoking. And that was that.

Walking and biking

But I walked. A lot. That was one of the city’s advantages. You could always get where you wanted because most friends and places you wanted to see were “within walking distance.” Once in a while, you might take public transportation – bus or a subway – but that cost $.75 and that could be spent on pizza and a soda. And even though it was Brooklyn, we were within a 30-minute bicycle ride to the Atlantic Ocean.

So, when you didn’t walk, you rode. And the 10-speed bike became your best friend. You could get anywhere on it and it was yours as long as you remembered to lock it up securely. It was Brooklyn in the 70s after all. There was nothing sweeter than having ridden 20 minutes through the heat and traffic of city streets until you got to the base of the bridge that took you high up over and across the bay and towards the ocean.

You could smell the salt-water in your nose and felt it in your lungs. And it seemed to empower you to make those grueling last 10 minutes up an extremely steep incline and over the bridge to the beach and waters of the Atlantic. And if you were really, really lucky, someone had a car that you could throw your bike into for the ride home. If not, and you had to ride, the incline was less on the return trip and most of the heat had disappeared with the setting of the sun.

I’m not getting my hopes up too high. But I know what I’d like to do if everything works out!

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