UMC Lung Transplant Program Marks Two Milestones
When Jesse Kolb blows out the 11 candles on his birthday cake tomorrow, he won't be stopped by a coughing fit.
That's because Jesse, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, has a new set of lungs to let loose on those candles. He underwent a double-lung transplant at University Medical Center on Aug. 28 - becoming the youngest patient to undergo the procedure in Arizona.
Being cough-free is the best part of his post-transplant life, he says.
"Before, I'd always wake up coughing, go to bed coughing, wake up coughing in the middle of the night."
The second best thing will be going back to school. He hasn't been in a classroom for two years because of his cystic fibrosis. He's excited to join a fifth grade class after the holidays, and has ridden by his new school to see what it looks like.
"It gets boring being home all day," says Jesse, whose family recently moved to Tucson from Phoenix.
Another double-lung transplant patient, 46-year-old Howard Cook, also is looking forward to returning to a room full of children.
Mr. Cook, the oldest cystic fibrosis patient to get a new pair of lungs in Arizona, hopes to return soon to his position as an assistant circulation manager - and children's storyteller - at the Tucson-Pima Public Library, Wilmot Branch.
He's happy not to have to worry about whether he'll be able to take his next breath and is hoping to recover his strength soon so that he can fully appreciate his new lungs.
Mr. Cook, who underwent transplant surgery Oct. 7, was discharged from UMC on Wednesday.
Francisco A. Arabía, MD, director of UMC's lung transplantation program, says it is very rare for someone with cystic fibrosis to live to 46 without a transplant. He believes it's due in part to Mr. Cook's "incredible mental fortitude."
The good news for Jesse and Mr. Cook is that their new lungs will not develop cystic fibrosis. The disease, however, is not curable and both will have to continue to treat it.
Jesse, an outgoing young man who is vocal in encouraging organ donation, says he's very grateful to the family who donated the lungs and hopes to meet them one day.
"I just want to know why they decided to give them to me and thank them," he says. "And I bet they'd like to meet me."
(The first heart-lung transplant performed at UMC was on Nov. 28, 1985. The first single-lung transplant at UMC was in May 1990, followed by the first double-lung transplant on Jan. 19, 1993. To date, 29 double-lung transplants have been performed at UMC.)
EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: Jesse will celebrate his 11th birthday with a party at Fort Lowell Park, 2900 N. Craycroft Road, from 1-4 p.m., on Saturday, Dec. 7. (His birthday is Dec. 6.) Media are invited to attend.