Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Where do the lungs come from?

I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions and questions about where the lungs come from for a lung transplant so I thought I would do another Q & A to help clear things up.

Q: Where do the lungs come from?

A: Dead people (medically known as cadavers) who signed their donor cards. When someone dies, their lungs are 'harvested' and used for the transplant.

Q: I thought they could do lobe transplants from living donors?

A: They can but that is no longer a recommended practice for people with CF as the donor lobe quickly gets infected by the crap in the original lungs rendering it ineffective.

Q: So you just have to wait for someone to die?
A: Yes, but they have to die in a certain way so their lungs are not ruined. Getting hit by a bus or drowning does not create good donor lungs. Death by an aneurism, stroke, or heart attack are all good options.

Q: Old people die all the time, couldn't you take one of their lungs?

A: No, their lungs are as aged as they are and are not a very good option for someone like me.

Q: So who needs to die?

A: A non-smoker who is my blood type and body size with no other diseases and who has signed their donor card.

Q: Where are you on the lung transplant list?

A: They don't give you a number like '129 of 145' but they did tell me that right now I would be considered 'low priority'. To my understanding, low priority means that they will wait for a perfect set of lungs before doing a transplant to give me the best chance of avoiding rejection (Rejection being when the body does not accept the new organ and attacks it like it would a cold or the flu. Hence the butt-load of anti-rejection meds everyone is on post-transplant.) If I were considered high priority, that would mean that they would give me a set that would be less than ideal because I would die for sure without them.

Q: How long do you think that will take?

A: It varies, the average is 8 months to a year but some people wait for years. Being low-priority probably means I will have to wait a bit longer as the doctors won't want to rush the surgery.

Q: Will you know the donor or their family?

A: Not intentionally, the hospital works very hard to make sure the two families never meet.

Q: Why do you have to wait in Toronto? People die in the Maritimes too, can you get their lungs if you are in Toronto?

A: Unfortunately, the Maritimes don't have a lung transplant clinic so there is no option of having it done here. There are only 5 clinics in Canada and Toronto is the closest English option. I was told the 'harvest team' (the people who remove the organs from the dead person) have 8 hours from when the lung is 'harvested' to the actual transplant surgery to keep the lungs viable so getting one from the Maritimes to Toronto could be feasible if the timing works.

Q: So you will be in Toronto waiting for someone to die?

A: Yup thats about it.

Q: Doesn’t that freak you out?

A: Not really, A) I don’t know the person and B) I am not responsible for their death

Any questions I missed? Ask away!


Anonymous said...

Did you know that a person that dies from asthma can still donate their lungs for a successful lung transplant? I just heard that and thought it was very interesting that the lungs that they die from can still save another life! D

Alley said...

I did not know that. I guess Asthma must not scar the lung tissue? Interesting.

Scott said...

I work with someone who received a new liver over ten years ago. His was from a car accident he thinks. They don't talk much about the ones collected from the footpath below the multistory car park at the hospital. He has that kind of sense of humour. I hope it's ok to post that thought here.

Alley said...

That is fine! I also have a weird sense of humour about these types of things as well. I think it comes with the territory.

Anonymous said...

I have been asked if you are a rare blood type and if so does that improve your chances or if it would be worse to be a rare blood type. D

Alley said...

I'm A- which is not too rare, It means I can use A or AB lungs. My gut reaction is to say that it is better to be a common blood type so there is more selection but I guess if you were a rare type than you might be the only eligible one on the list. I'm sure someone has done a study to compare.