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Lung Transplant: Shawn's Story

"Shawn and I now enjoy simple, normal everyday things like breakfast with friends, shopping and washing the car, things that just a few months ago were not possible. We have come to realize that every day is a gift and there is joy in everyday living."
 
-Teresa, whose husband Shawn underwent a double-lung transplant at UW Hospital in 2007.
 
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Shawn underwent a double-lung transplant at UW Hospital in 2007. He is pictured with his wife Teresa.Shawn underwent a double-lung transplant at UW Hospital in 2007. He and his wife, Teresa (pictured) share their thanks and thoughts for a healthy, joyous new year.
 
A Life-Long Challenge

"As we pause to reflect on the past year, we are thankful for the tremendous blessings that we received in 2007.

"Shawn has cystic fibrosis, which is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the US. Shawn has been a patient at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Hospital (UNMC) virtually his entire life. What we’re experiencing today is largely credited to their many years of treating and caring for Shawn. It is remarkable that Shawn maintained his health well into adulthood; but at 42-years old, we realized that his lungs were deteriorating. Five years ago UNMC physicians encouraged him to become listed for a double-lung transplant.
 
A Glimmer of Hope
 
"In March, we learned that Shawn was number two on the transplant list for his body and blood type at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics (UW) in Madison, Wisconsin. We caught a glimmer of hope on Aug. 30 when the UW called. A donor set of lungs was available. Shawn and I arrived in Madison via private plane around 10 p.m.; but unfortunately, these lungs were of poor quality and not viable for transplant. The following day, we rented a car and with the help of Shawn’s aunt and uncle from Iowa, we managed to drive ourselves back home.

"Finally, on Sept. 10 Shawn received a call from Mary, his lung transplant coordinator at the UW, which completely changed our lives and the lives of our family and friends! The UW had received another suitable set of donor lungs! Shawn, his mother and I flew back to Madison via private plane. His surgery started around 6 p.m. and by 1:30 a.m. the following morning, Shawn was recovering in the ICU. Shawn’s father arrived from Texas that evening and we had such a wonderful reunion! Shawn received excellent care from the UW surgical, transplant and nursing teams and we are thankful for their skills and knowledge.

"The UW transplant team will periodically see Shawn for his lifetime. In December, we returned to the UW for Shawn’s three-month post-transplant appointments, where we learned that Shawn is doing very well. It is hard to believe that Shawn has come so far in a relatively short period of time!

Determination and Dedication
 
"Shawn continues to improve although it takes a lot of determination and dedication on his part. He tries to exercise on the treadmill several times a week and attends pulmonary rehab two times a week at an Omaha hospital. Shawn takes and records his vital signs and spirometry (a hand held device that measures the volume of air that he can blow) twice daily. In addition, Shawn has learned how and when to take his anti-rejection drug regimen. On the flip side of things, Shawn has more freedom since he no longer performs hours of daily vest percussion and nebulizer treatments to treat CF.

"Some people have asked, 'Does Shawn still have CF?' Because CF also affects the digestive system, yes, Shawn will always have cystic fibrosis. The lung transplant cannot fix this part of the disease. However, Shawn will not have CF in his new lungs. Our concerns for his new lungs are now infection, rejection, pneumonia, etc. This is why Shawn forwards his daily spirometry data to the UW transplant team every week. The team closely monitors the results to better head off rejection or infection. The team at the UW will also check for rejection and infection at every periodic appointment. In between check ups at the UW, we are fortunate that the UNMC team still follows Shawn.
 
Every Day is a Gift
 
"Shawn and I now enjoy simple, normal everyday things like breakfast with friends, shopping and washing the car, things that just a few months ago were not possible. We have come to realize that every day is a gift and there is joy in everyday living. This leads us to what we are most thankful for – Shawn’s donor family.

"For Shawn’s donor family, it is hard, if not nearly impossible, for us to adequately express in mere words our gratitude for their unselfish gift. To simply say 'Thank you' hardly seems enough. We hope Shawn’s donor family finds comfort in knowing that we embrace the life of their loved one. This New Year, we would like to honor his/her memory by asking you to please consider becoming an organ and tissue donor. If you already are an organ and tissue donor, we cannot thank you enough.

"Miracles happen every day – trust in God and keep your faith. We wish you much peace, happiness, and We Hope YOUR Dreams Come True in 2008!"