Carol Blum has experienced many "firsts" in her life. She was the first patient in Beloit Health System’s Pulmonary Rehab program in 2009 and since last fall she has accomplished a new first. Carol, of Beloit, was the recipient of two new lungs on October 28, 2010 and she is now Beloit Health System’s only Rehab patient who is a double lung transplant.
"Carol has always been a remarkable patient," explains Carrie Tracy, Respiratory Therapist with Beloit Health System."Since her transplant, she is clinically a new person with clear breath sounds, no wheezing. Muscles that were once atrophied from lack of mobility are now stronger and in good condition."
Last fall, Carol was placed on the donor list for new lungs, and received "the call" after only a three week wait. "I was at my sister’s house when I got the call," remembers Carol, "and I said ‘It’s time to go!’ I had read that it took an average of one to two years on the waiting list, so I was shocked."
Potential donor recipients are assigned a score based on their immediate level of need and then a matching donor must be found. Prior to surgery, Carol was on full-time oxygen and was limited to a wheelchair for most of her mobility. Luckily for Carol, a match was found very quickly.
The surgery required two weeks of recovery in Madison’s University of Wisconsin Hospital, where Carol was encouraged to get up and walk the first day after surgery. "I really didn’t want to, but discovered I could do more than I thought," she adds.
One of the biggest post-surgery changes for Carol is being independent of her oxygen tank, which was always by her side. She was on full-time oxygen for 13 years prior to her surgery. "Now I don’t need oxygen at all," she remarks. "Either at home or when I go out. It’s a tremendous sense of freedom. I am now able to do household chores, go on vacation and function more on my own."
Carol has participated in Beloit Health System’s Pulmonary Rehab program twice a week during her recovery. "I am able to do so much more than I used to. They have really helped me both to get stronger before my surgery and then to recover to the level where I am. My advice to others? Don’t ever start smoking and if you do- quit now. My lungs were really damaged after 40 years of smoking."
"I’ve had a very supportive husband and family throughout this process. Sometimes I wonder who my donor was," Carol adds. "I’m a little curious, but mostly greatly appreciative. I hope people consider being a donor- it makes a world of difference." In honor of donors everywhere, Carol made a shirt that reads "Save a Life- Be a Donor" which she proudly wears to rehab and around town. A donor certainly made a difference in Carol’s life.
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