My Friend, Rick (Part 2)

This is the second part of the series 'My Friend, Rick' which showcases my interview with a friend who recently had a lung transplant. Part one can be found here.

Post-transplant adjustment

Me: So you’re home now. What are you allowed to do? Did you celebrate?

Rick: So, they (my pulmonary team) run my medical life at this point, anything that I do, even going to the dentist has to be run through them. Greenlighted by them. Yep, you know, I’ve got a huge number of pills. I've got to monitor my vitals several times a day. Yep, many restrictions on eating. Yep, no drinking no alcohol, no, no.

Me: Wow!

Rick: Well, that's the current protocol but these protocols do change. For example, when I was still in the hospital, the protocol on fresh fruit changed. It went from no fresh fruit for 30 to 60 days up to a year, depending on the fruit. You can have all you want, just make sure it's washed. Grapefruit, pomegranate, and star fruit are the only three fruits I can never have. At least I never was a big star fruit fan.

Was it all worth it?

Me: I’ve got to believe it’s all worth it, no?

Rick: So, you know, I'm now in the process of adjusting to this new lifestyle. This new life. It's a relief to be out from under. I was on oxygen 24/7 and recently stepped up - I had been using 2 concentrators but as it became worse I was using tanks.

So, it's kind of like a rebirth of sorts. I didn't know what the future was like, I'm fortunate I'm a lawyer I have my own firm with one partner - do much as I want or as little as I want. And, you know, not knowing if I had a long-term future. Because I could, I could feel myself not, you know, literally slipping away but as my pulmonary function declined, more and more things were beyond my capability. Now it's, you know, healing. Yeah, and so far so good I apparently did well in recovery in the hospital. People were impressed.

Have you left the house?

Me: And have you left the house?

Rick: Now I have to get my strength and I can feel it day by day. Walking down the block and around the corner. The first time I went to rehab, this is like, maybe late August or September of last year, there's this woman on a treadmill running. Well, I said what's with her? She since became a friend of mine.

Me: What's the story with this lady?

Rick: They said she had a transplant. I thought, "oh wow."

Me: Oh my God, that's like you know, newfound hope and inspiration.

Rick: Oh sure, so maybe I'll be that guy someday. And how about you?

Me: I'm looking to get listed. I've been going every 90 days and I go through an evaluation. I do the deep breathing tests and all that. You know, COPD is progressive and you know people ultimately die from it. But you know I'm probably somewhere between three and four (stage). I'm not quite straight-four yet, but I'll be there soon and I think at that point then I get listed. So, keep your fingers crossed for me.

Would your COPD require a double transplant?

Rick: Would your COPD require a double transplant?

Me: No, not necessarily. They tell me a double is rare. Did you get a double?

Rick: I did not. In case you don't know this, one lung can do the job. So one working lung is adequate to keep you breathing normally.

Me: Do you know who your donor is?

Rick: You get no information about the donor. All I know is that the maximum age for a donor is 70. They generally need to be your body size, obviously your blood type and all that too. It t has to match up but they have to be your roughly your size because the organ has to be similar to go into the same chamber.

Do you have someone staying with you?

Me: Do you have someone staying with you?

Rick: Well, for the first 30 days, they say you have to have someone with you full time. I could cut that short, as I'm up and about, I'm able to, you know, do all the things. I can go up the steps. But my girlfriend and my daughter took a few weeks off from work to be here. One of them has been here, but I was out today, went to the CVS, put on my mask, limited what I ate. We have to be very careful.

Me: Will they let you drive?

Rick: They do say they don't want you to drive, they don't want you to be alone, right, for 30 days. Then slowly but surely as your health improves, some of those requirements loosen up.

Me: Great!

Rick: All right, Kevin you listen: Hang in there. Thank you, and I wish you well, and all the best and you too.

Me: Thanks, Rick. You too.

Article about transplants

Rick gave me this article from the New York Times to read about transplants. It says it all.

Here's an excerpt: “It’s been almost a year and a half since Ms. Favazza’s transplant. She said it seemed as though she spent all her time returning to the hospital for a clinic visit, a new scan or a procedure. But she can run her daily errands without carting around her oxygen. She no longer needs to worry when she can’t find a parking spot near a store entrance. After years without travel, she is planning a trip to Florida."

“It’s about being able to breathe and to do what you need to do,” she told me. Then she paused. “No — not just what you need to do, but what you want to do. Being able to do the little things, kids’ birthday parties, Easter. For me, it’s being able to do all of that again.”1

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