Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lung Transplant Education

We had lung transplant education today. It was basically an information session held for patients and their support teams. Gess's sister Diana joined us for the session. It was informative, but honestly it sort of freaked me out. It makes this whole process seem so much more "real" and it really hit us that this could be happening a lot sooner than either of us really expected.

Here's a brief description of what happened:

They told us about the evaluation process and the tests that are required for that. Gess has gotten several of these tests done and will get some more in the following weeks. As far as I know, he will be finished with all of the tests on September 3rd. He does have to consult with the pain doctor again and our current appointment is not until mid-September but they are going to try to get him in earlier. When all of the tests are done the transplant team (which is made up of the surgeon, social worker, pulmonologist, dietitian, etc.) meets and makes a decision on listing. The team could decide that they need to do more tests or evaluations. They could also decide that Gess is not a good candidate for some reason and decide not to list him. Or they could decide that it is time to list him and put him on the transplant list. Because Gess's situation is a bit different than the "normal" situation for transplant, the team will likely appeal to the powers that be for an exception to get him a better placement on the list. They said that we should hear about the listing decisions within 1-2 weeks after all of the tests are finished. So, conceivably he could be listed by mid-September, but it could also take longer depending on any number of circumstances.

Once he is listed, we basically wait. The average wait time at the UW is 3-4 months, but ranges anywhere from zero days to about 2 years. We need to be "on call" at all times and be able to get to the hospital within 3 hours of receiving "the call." The "call" is made when there is a likely match. This is based on a preliminary assessment of the donor's lungs, etc., so it doesn't mean that the lungs will turn out to be good, etc. The UW surgical team will have to go to the hospital were the donor is, assess the lungs, procure them, and then transport them back to the UW. At the same time, they need to make sure that Gess is healthy enough to receive the lungs. If he is having some sort of infection or fever or other issue, he might not be able to accept them. If both Gess and the donor lungs are good to go they will take him off to surgery. The surgery lasts about 6 hours for a double lung transplant, but could be more or less depending on what goes on.

They expect him to be in the ICU for a few days following the surgery, with some of that time on a ventilator and with various tubes and wires. They expect the hospital stay to be about 2 weeks but that can fair from as little as 1 week to several months depending on the circumstances.

Once he is home, he will have a pretty rigorous maintenance schedule, especially at first. He will be on a number of new medications (8-10 new ones) and will have to carefully monitor his lung function and vital signs every day. He will need someone with him 24/7 at first and will have weekly appointments. He is supposed to get a lot of exercise, but will have to be careful with arm movements because they cut the sternum during the procedure and it takes about 8 weeks for that to heal.


BreathinSteven said...

Hey you...

I too have cystic fibrosis... I received my beautiful, new lungs just over ten years ago... I lived with my old cystic fibrosis lungs for over 39 years. It's been ten years and this breathin' stuff still blows my freakin' mind every single day...

It is becoming more real for you and Gess, Lisa... I hope Gess' journey is as amazing as mine has been...

I have a website that desperately needs to be updated, but has some of my story -- it's at:

and I blog about organ donation at:

My email is at the bottom of my website -- if there are any questions I can ever answer, don't hesitate to holler!!!

Love, Steve

Steve Ferkau
Chicago, IL

CowTown said...

Okay -- now I'm up to date with how the whole eval went.

I can imagine it was scary hearing all the details. It's so intense when you're sitting there and they're talking to you! <3

Peace ~