Last November, we had Thanksgiving at my dad's house, just like we do every year. We were clueless as to how drastically our lives were about to change. Shortly after Thanksgiving, my dad started noticing he would get extremely out of breath doing simple tasks. It was getting harder and harder for him to breathe, and it got so bad that he finally decided to go see his doctor about it (which if you know my dad, means it must have been bad because he doesn't like doctors AND didn't have insurance at the time). He had dealt with breathing problems in the past, so he assumed he would see the doctor, get some medicine or a breathing treatment, and be on his way. However, when the doctor checked his oxygen levels, he explained they were critically low and told my dad he needed to go to the hospital immediately. They transferred him to the hospital via ambulance, ran several tests, and put him on oxygen. This is when we first heard the words Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Basically, IPF is where the lungs become stiff with scar tissue and can no longer pump oxygen to the rest of the body properly. They say most people live 3-5 years after diagnosis, and there is no cure. The only way to fix the problem is to get an entirely new lung.
They told us that my dad would have to be on oxygen continuously at home, and could no longer drive. I couldn't believe how quickly all this had escalated! He seemed fine at Thanksgiving, and within a matter of days, was on 6 liters of oxygen and could barely walk to the bathroom without getting severely out of breath. Because he is on such a high volume of oxygen, he can't get the portable little oxygen tanks you can carry around in a backpack. He was forced to quit his job, and fought to find insurance that would help pay for a transplant.
His doctors explained that he would need a lung biopsy before anything else could be done, and in March, the biopsy was performed. The biopsy confirmed that he indeed did need a lung transplant, and tissue samples & results from the biopsy were sent to 3 different hospitals for consideration of a transplant: Vanderbilt in Nashville, a hospital in Birmingam, and one in St. Louis. We were praying that Vanderbilt would accept him because they were not only the closest, but also have the highest success rate. And God answered our prayers... Vanderbilt was the first to call!
A lot of work was required before Vanderbilt would even consider to put him on the list. He not only had to quit smoking and drinking, but also had to lose a ridiculous amount of weight, and had to be able to walk a certain distance within a certain amount of time. But my dad was determined! You see, during the time when all this was going on, we also found out that I was pregnant.. My dad's first and only grandchild! It was a complete surprise, but I know it was God's plan all along. It's given my dad something to keep fighting for during the times when all he wants to do is give up. It hasn't been without sacrifices- he missed our gender reveal party where we found out whether we were having a boy or girl because that was the same weekend they decided to do his biopsy... He can't drive, leaving him stuck in his house everyday... But he has never given up!
He started going to pulmonary rehab twice a week to build up his stamina, and the nurses there were so surprised how determined he was and how well he was doing. My dad's goal was to do everything in HIS power that he could in order to get the transplant. He has maintained a strict diet and is exercising every day. He has lost about 50 pounds, is walking 1.8 miles a day and riding a stationary bicycle 3.5 miles a day. What people don't realize is you can look better and get sicker. His body is getting stronger for the operation but his lungs are getting weaker.
The evaluation process has 2 parts before you can even get on the transplant list. During Stage I of the evaluation, they found a blocked artery in my dad's heart, and we were told this may ruin his chances of getting on the list. However, the cardiologist agreed to put a stent in, and thankfully everything went well. We are praying for a good report from Stage II, and if everything goes well then, he will FINALLY get put on the list.
My dad has dealt with so much these past few months, but we know this journey is only beginning. If/when they approve him and find a new lung for him, he will have to stay in Nashville for 3 months after the transplant (to make sure his body doesn't reject the new lung). He will be on multiple medications and will have to be extremely careful due to a suppressed immune system. But I know that all this will be worth it.
According to Transplant Living, a single lung can cost up to $560,000. Not only is it the cost of the surgery and doctors, but we also have to consider the cost of room & board while in Nashville for 3 months, travel expenses, oxygen tanks, tests, lab work, medications, etc. This is the reason I set up this website. With my dad unable to work, paying bills is difficult. ANY donation is greatly appreciated, big or small!! It's hard for me to understand, but I know that God has a purpose for all this, and that he's giving my dad a second chance. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. We will keep you updated through this website and Facebook!
- find a cure panel
- Steffany Baker
- joanne richartz
- Oliver Coleman
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