Lung Transplant Patient Stories

DEAN MCKENZIE, MD

When thoracic and congenital heart surgeon Dean McKenzie, MD needed a life-saving lung transplant, he turned to Houston Methodist. His transplant surgeon Erik Eddie Suarez, MD trained with Dr. McKenzie when he was a resident in this inspiring story. Learn more

JESUS CEJA CEJA

Transplant, a special three-part series from the Houston Chronicle follows the COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent double-lung transplant of 29 year-old Jesus Ceja Ceja. 

Chapter 1: The diagnosis

Chapter 2: The match

Chapter 3: Recovery 

JOSHUA GARZA

Joshua Garza had a chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in January, but he passed it up thinking he didn't really need it. Now, the 43-year-old is hoping to inspire others to get the vaccine after he became so ill with COVID-19 that he needed a double lung transplant to survive. Learn more on ABC News. Joshua also recently spoke to the U.S. Congress as covered by USA TODAY.  

COLBY VONDENSTEIN

When Colby Vondenstein and his wife decided to spend Christmas with other members of their family, they didn't think the 24-year-old father of three would end up needing a multi-organ transplant in order to stay alive, as seen on the TODAY ShowFour months after testing positive for COVID-19, Colby went home after a double lung and kidney transplant. Learn more 

ANDREW CAPEN

Andrew Capen, 33, is the recipient of a double lung transplant after battling COVID-19. Andrew is one of the longest surviving patients on ECMO, a machine that works in place of lungs when they are unable to function on their own. Capen survived on ECMO for six months before receiving new lungs. Learn more. Andrew also spoke with Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition

THOMAS STEELE

Thomas Steele was one of the lucky ones. At 50 years of age, with no preexisting conditions, he contracted COVID-19. It left him gasping for breath. He told his story of terrifying illness and amazing healing to Robin Young of Here & Now.

After contracting COVID-19 in San Antonio, where he works in sales for a construction company, he wasn’t too concerned. It seemed like everyone had it. Then he took a turn for the worse and was admitted to the local hospital. For two months, he was tethered to ECMO, a last-ditch protocol that takes over the function of a person’s heart and lungs. By the time he was transferred from to Houston Methodist, his lungs were “totally destroyed,” according to his surgeon, Thomas E. MacGillivray, MD, chief of cardiac surgery and thoracic transplant at Houston Methodist.


The good news is that Steele survived. He received a double lung transplant at Houston Methodist and is currently recovering. He wants people to know the virus “is not a joke. It's nothing to play with. It's real and it's serious.” He and MacGillivray want to urge everyone to keep physically distant from others who do not live in your household, wear a mask and wash hands frequently.

LAURO RUIZ

After being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, Lauro Ruiz became progressively more short of breath and unable to perform daily activities. Once he became bedbound and required oxygen full time, Lauro was listed for a lung transplant. One year after a successful double lung transplant, he walked the Philadelphia Marathon with his family. Learn more

TARA GOODWIN

Tara Goodwin was just seven months old when she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. By the time she was 31, she was in need of a lung-liver transplant. At the time fewer than 100 patients had ever undergone this type of multi-organ transplant. A year later, her lung capacity is 100% and she's enjoying her second chance at living life to the fullest. Learn more

JIM COOK

Before being struck with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Jim Cook was an avid cycler, hunter, hiker, camper and volunteer for children in Honduras. Eventually, his disease stopped him from doing many of the things he loved, even affecting most of his daily living activities. He required 10 liters of oxygen each day just to survive – until March 2017, when he received a second chance at life through a double lung transplant.

 

Today, Jim and his wife Tamara enjoy all the activities they did before he became ill, living intentionally each day and maximizing every moment of his life. In gratitude for his new lungs, and in memory of their son, who passed away from cancer just before his diagnosis, Jim has dedicated his new lease on life to helping the children of Honduras.

RONNIE HARDIN

As an avid runner, keyboard player in a rock’n’roll band and high school counselor, Ronnie Hardin’s life was upended when he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. He had been experiencing progressive upper respiratory symptoms and was eventually placed on the national waiting list for a lung transplant.

 

In 2016, Hardin received a second chance at life through a single lung transplant at Houston Methodist. Today, he is walking and running without oxygen, back playing with his bandmates of 20-plus years, and enjoys traveling and fishing.

 

“My wife and daughter got me through it,” he said. “We lived with my daughter in Houston while I recovered. They were very encouraging, and they were instrumental in my speedy recovery.”

MELVIN MORRISON

Since his lifesaving lung transplant in 2012, Melvin Morrison has gone from a quiet and reserved man to one with a voice –now he has a story to tell. He is a volunteer at Houston Methodist, where he encourages those waiting for transplant and those recovering.

 

“I want people to understand that they can feel better after a transplant and that life continues,” he said. “My transplant has given me a new life and I love telling my story.”
Morrison gives all the credit to his caregivers, who he calls his “MVPs.” From his wife to his brother-in-law, brother and niece, he said they never left his side and he will be forever grateful.

 

Today, Morrison is enjoying life to the fullest, traveling with his wife, participating in the annual Transplant Games of America, and giving back.

WESLEY GLOVER

Although he was just a baby when he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Wesley Glover didn’t let his illness stop him from achieving his dreams of being a team roper. But in 2009, his health declined to the point of end-stage lung disease and he was in need of a lung transplant. That same year, Wesley underwent a successful double lung transplant at Houston Methodist. Over ten years later, he still enjoys team roping, and says “it’s so much more fun” with his new lungs.