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
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 Show. Four months after testing positive for COVID-19, Colby went home after a double lung and kidney transplant. Learn more.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.