My Transplant Adventure
By Eric Hansen
Double lung March 21, 2013 St. Joseph’s Phoenix, AZ
June 1996 I was diagnosed with Alpha 1 Antitrypsin deficiency. That was a rude awakening, but at least I knew what was causing me to gasp for air and have been chronically sick with a cold, flu or some lung infection for years.
June 1996 was a monumental month as it was the same month I released my first independent record “Lucky.” For the next two years, I traveled from NYC to Cleveland Clinic to be in a clinical study for a new Alpha 1 therapy as I had no insurance at the time. At the same time I was singing wherever I could to get my record and my solo music career going.
Over the following years I did everything in my power to build my musical network and sing wherever I could. Yes, I got sick over and over again. Somehow, I was able to sing sick most of the time. In 1997 I was in Kerrville Texas at the historical folk festival there competing in a songwriting contest. I was walking around one evening and started to feel the chills. This was Texas in June and it was HOT! I took myself to the hospital. Just before I entered the hospital I wept because I was sick again and my body ached so badly! Thousands of musicians were having a blast at the festival and I was going to the hospital.
I had pneumonia. They checked me into the hospital for a week. One afternoon, I heard music from down the hall. The hospital Minister was going around singing with his guitar. He came to my room and he sang.
When I was feeling a bit better, he and I sang in my room. The room was packed with staff. It was so much fun.
I sang and got sick and sang and got sick and on for years.
In 2007 I felt the need to stop traveling so much as my lung function was declining. I still played around town and at church.
June 2012 I started feeling very weak. I was checked into the hospital. I declined quickly. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
They told my family and friends that I was going to die. In the 11th hour, just as Hospice was called in they found the Nokardia.
The infectious disease doc said I had a 1% chance to live and if I DID live I would never get a lung transplant because of the infection.
It took all summer to recover, but my lung function was now 24% and I carried two big tanks of oxygen. It was a really tough time.
Tucson had lost its transplant program, so we went to St. Joe’s in Phoenix to see if they would take me. We began the evaluation process which is brutal at St. Joe’s. I have never seen such long hallways in my entire life! Somedays I took a wheelchair.
March 20th 2013
I went up for a clinic visit. I had only been on the list for about a month. My friend Vicky told me that I was very upset and thought I should just get off the list because they were never going to call me.
March 21st 2013
The phone rang. It was the transplant coordinator.
Her: Hi Eric it’s Christy.
ME: Hi. What’s up?
Her: We have some lungs for you.
Me: I was just up there yesterday, why didn’t you call me then?
Her: You know it doesn’t work that way.
Me: You REALLY have lungs for me?
Nobody prepares you for this kind of thing. Good Lord!!! Everything went really well. I was in hospital for 14 days due to the drains not draining completely. I had weird dreams and lots of hallucinations.
I remember hearing music coming out of the vent 24/7 and I had to inform the nurse that the clock was running backwards.
Six weeks after surgery I had to have a Fundoplication due to severe Acid Reflux and there were a few complications from that which were easily solved. We’ve had two tweak things here and there, but overall things are very, very good with me.
It’s almost three years now and I recently had the awareness that I feel whole!
Eric Hansen- Tucson , AZ www.erichansen.net