Lung Transplants are the most difficult of all types of organ transplants because they have the lowest survival rate. Patients need a lung transplant when their lungs have been severely affected by a lung disease to a point that they cannot be healed.
Generally, it is assumed that patients requiring lung transplants are smokers. Although smokers do damage their lungs and many of them require a lung transplant after years of smoking, there are many reasons non-smokers need a lung transplant as well.
The lungs can be damaged beyond repair by lung cancer, COPD, interstitial lung disease and many other lung infections. Patients with severely damaged lungs are put on ventilators in order to get more oxygen into their body since their lungs are not functioning at full capacity. However, once the lungs completely stop functioning, ventilators are no longer helpful.
In some hospitals, patients who can no longer be helped by ventilators, are now put on ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation). ECMO is essentially a life support mechanism that takes the blood out of the patient’s body, removes the carbon dioxide from it, adds oxygen to it, and returns it into the patient’s body usually through an artery in the neck or groin. An ambulatory ECMO machine can help patients move around and exercise to make sure they are strong enough for a lung transplant while they are waiting.
Despite ventilators and ECMO, it is very difficult for lung patients to stay alive and healthy long enough for a pair of lungs to become available to them. Also, the likely hood of these patients surviving after they receive their transplants is not guaranteed. According to The National Heart, Lung and Blood institute, after receiving a lung transplant, only “78% of patients survive the first year”, and only 51% live for up to 5 years.
Life after a lung transplant can also be very difficult. Although many patients return to an almost “normal” life, it comes at a cost. They may have to take up to 50 pills a day to prevent rejection. They also need regular check ups such as a bronchoscopy to make sure their body is not rejecting the lungs and/or getting an infection.
The field of lung transplantation does not receive as much attention as it should. Many lung patients are not aware of the options they have because not many hospitals have enough time and money to spend on lung transplant research and technology.
The purpose of The Sid Foundation is to raise money and awareness for lung transplant research so that doctors can find new ways of treating patients with lung issues and patients who need a lung transplant. We also hope to create more resources, and support for lung transplant patients so that they can extend their life on borrowed lungs.
To find out more information on lung transplants check out The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s website: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/lungtxp
You can also read testimonials from Sid and other lung transplant patients at The University of Kentucky Hospital at their lung transplant website to learn more about life after a lung transplant.