Lung transplant

Paul looks forward to the future after a lung transplant

Man sitting outside in fall

As a teenager and young adult with cystic fibrosis (CF), Paul Langenecker was able to keep himself relatively healthy through occasional “tune-ups,” typically two-week stays in the hospital where he received large doses of antibiotics.

Paul was fortunate to have teachers and bosses who understood his unique health needs and supported him or gave him the time off that he needed. After high school, Paul went to technical college to become an electrician, attending classes at night and working during the day. By that point, he needed "tune-ups" three times a year, usually about six weeks off, but he still had enough support in his life to make it work.

By the time he was 25, Paul’s disease caught up with him. He got married in September 2018, and during his honeymoon at Wisconsin Dells, his medication port became infected. He was in the hospital for a month and had to stop working because he could barely walk. The following July, Paul — who lives in Mayville, Wis. — was added to the lung transplant wait list at a Milwaukee hospital.

“I was never down in the dumps,” he said. “I’ve always been a very positive person. I just felt bad for my wife, Amy, because she had to do everything for me.”

Paul already had started investigating dual listing (being placed on the wait list at more than one hospital) at UW Health in Madison when he learned the lung transplant program at the Milwaukee hospital had closed. He joined the wait list at UW Health in late September, and not a moment too soon — he became very ill and had to be hospitalized at University Hospital in October. On Oct. 29, he received the gift of life with new lungs.

“When you take your first breath by yourself, it’s so awesome,” he said.

While Paul, 27, continues to recover from his surgery, he's thrilled by the opportunity to plan for the future. Before he became so sick, he would spend long weekends in the Dells with friends and they hoped to go on a cruise together. He also likes to golf and looks forward to hitting the greens again.

"Before my transplant, I would say that I didn’t know where I’d be a month from now,” he said. “But I have a whole new life now and can plan for the future.”