Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~
Seven years ago, if you’ll pardon the expression, my lungs were on their last legs. I was still doing an hour a day on the treadmill, but it was at 9 to 10 liters of oxygen.
I was on the transplant list with St Joe’s in Phoenix, and I was determined to be in the best possible shape if and when the call came.
When it did, it was obvious that someone has met with an untimely end. However, it was also obvious that they were loving and generous enough to be an organ donor. We found out later that my donor was a young man from Utah. He was a Mormon and a runner, so his lungs were in magnificent shape. They were also a perfect match for my body.
After years of fighting for breath and dragging an oxygen hose around, I was able to breathe. The first breath that I took when they pulled my ventilation tube was the most delicious thing I have experienced. My lungs had been deteriorating for so many years, I had forgotten how incredible that was to breathe freely. For a couple of weeks after I was discharged, I repeatedly caught myself checking for the location of the oxygen hose that I no longer wore, for fear of stepping on it and ripping my ears off.
In the seven years that Mary and I have been given, we have dedicated much of our time to the education and encouragement of other sufferers of lung disease. We have enjoyed working with the American Lung Association, the COPD Foundation, as well as several Facebook support groups. We’ve done a lot of writing and have traveled all over the United States and to London to speak at conferences and network with patients, caregivers and professionals in the care of lung diseases.
We have thoroughly enjoyed the extra years that we have been given. It was a magnificent gift, marred only by the knowledge that David, my lung donor, had to make the ultimate sacrifice. We have met his family and traveled to Salt Lake City twice to be with them. They are truly wonderful, caring and accepting people.
I could go on for days, but suffice it to say that I hope that we have been able to help some of you over the years. We truly believe that knowledge is power, and that anyone with a chronic disease will do better, be stronger, and have a better quality of life than will someone who chooses to just sit back and accept whatever comes.
It is not easy. I fought the effects of severe COPD for a lot of years, and it was my basic stubbornness that got me through it. A lot of research, a lot of networking with professionals and other patients, and a bazillion hours on the treadmill and other various assorted exercise equipment.
Mary, world class caregiver, and Wendy, our incredible daughter have both helped to support me and keep me in line. The Blue Chicken is a whole ‘nother story for next time.
Love you all,
Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them.
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