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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, Lung Transplant

Group Posing

Transplant Patient Success Story

Karen was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and received a double lung transplant 7 years ago. COPD is one of the most common lung disorders that affects a person’s ability to breathe and lung capacity. Karen received her double lung transplant at Penn Medicine by Alberto Pochettino, MD.

This June, I will celebrate a very special anniversary. It will be 7 years since I received my double lung transplant at Penn Medicine.

When I was first diagnosed with COPD, my lungs were functioning at 38% of what they should be. I was told that when I reached 25% I should get on the list for a lung transplant. Talk about shocking.

I was determined get well and have the chance to extend my life for however long I could, and promised myself I would be grateful for every day that I got.

Preparing for Transplant Surgery

Before the transplant, I exercised within a pulmonary rehabilitation program where I exercise under supervision. It was difficult, but I knew that the better shape I was in prior to my lung transplant surgery, the better chance I would have a successful recovery.

I waited on the transplant list for 3½ years before I got the first call it was time for my life-changing surgery. I was so scared, but when we arrived I was told my surgery would have to wait because the donor lungs weren’t oxygenating well.

I was back on the transplant list, and about 3 months later, I got the call again. This time, I wasn’t scared. My husband - my rock - was very confident all would be okay, and his confidence made me feel strong.

Life with New Lungs

It wasn’t always easy, but I continued to exercise with my rehabilitation team knowing the results would pay off. Today, I exercise for 30 minutes on the treadmill and 30 minutes on a spinner bike 5 days a week. I try to remember that I don’t have to go fast, and if I am having a bad day, I may lower my speed- but I still exercise. That’s been my motto, and I think it has helped me.

I am also diligent about taking my medications, and eating well. Whatever system works for you, stick to it. Every night, I plan out my medications to make sure I don’t miss anything. Since my transplant, there are so many things I can do that I couldn’t do before. I can walk long distances when we go on vacation – I even went rafting on a recent summer trip. I am an avid baseball fan, and just being able to go to games is a big accomplishment for me. Grandchildren’s birthdays, graduations, school plays, so many things I can do now. I wake up every morning happy to see another day – life is good!

My advice to other transplant patients: Have confidence in your transplant team, exercise, take all your medications, eat well, and most all, don’t think of yourself as a “sick” person. Every day is a new beginning, a day we would not have had if it had not been for “the gift of life.”

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