Life after Ex-Vivo Lung Transplant

Patricia Kingsbury is camping, biking and giving back 

Patricia KingsburyPatricia Kingsbury is grateful to the Lung Transplantation Program at NYP/Columbia for ending her long struggle with emphysema and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and giving her the breath of life.

“My last visit to an emergency room resulted in a five month inpatient stay at a rehabilitation facility, where I was on a ventilator,” Patricia recalls. Two months later, in September 2011, she became the first patient at Columbia, and the second in the nation, to receive an ex-vivo lung transplant. Both of her lungs were replaced with an innovative procedure pioneered by Frank D’Ovidio, MD, PhD, Surgical Director of the hospital’s Lung Transplant Program and Director of the Ex-Vivo Lung Perfusion Program. 

Frank D'Ovidio, MD“Many lungs are damaged at the time of the donor’s death and only 20 to 30 percent prove healthy enough to give to patients on the waiting list,” says Dr. D’Ovidio. “Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion (EVLP) now allows us to better evaluate those lungs when needed, restoring and repairing them prior to transplant. As this approach evolves, it has the potential to greatly increase our donor pool.”

Patricia depended on Dr. D’Ovidio not only for his surgical skill but for his exceptional patient care. “I immediately felt comfortable with him, and so did my family,” Patricia says. “Our connection helped me in my recovery. I not only fought for myself, I fought for a doctor who believed in me.” 

Before the transplant, Patricia tired very easily and was extremely sensitive to environmental toxins. She had missed out on many family vacations and watching her grandchildren grow. She rarely got together with friends and did most of her socializing online. Her surgery was a major turning point. The following summer, Patricia went camping with her family at a lake in upstate New York and started riding a bicycle again. By the fall of 2012, she was happily shuttling her grandchildren to and from school.

Today Patricia lives in an over-55 community where she does her share of volunteer work, running a café, hosting monthly dinners for 20, and taking residents to doctor's appointments. “Since my life-saving surgery,” she says, “I wanted to give back. So I started talking to people about their lung disease, helping them understand their diagnosis and showing them how to take their vitals.”

The best advice Patricia has for other patients with lung disease: Keep good notes and share them with your medical team. With the help of her daughter, Patricia kept a detailed journal noting her response to different interventions. “Many doctors don’t listen to the patient or to family members,” she says. “But that’s not the case here. My physicians at Columbia were glad to have this information. The day I went for my transplant, I had elevated CO2 levels that could have delayed the surgery. My daughter explained that in the past I had responded well to BIPAP therapy (Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure). The team tried this approach, my levels went down, and Dr. D’Ovidio performed this historic operation.”

Was Patricia nervous about having a new procedure? “Lung disease makes you nervous because you feel so helpless,” she says, “I was happy to help open the doorway for other people to benefit from Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion.”

During her time at Columbia, Patricia also learned about the benefits of integrative medicine. She chose to receive Reiki treatments to curb the anxiety that often accompanies lung disease and a patient’s fight to breathe, and has since developed a daily practice of Tai Chi. This routine, she says, has both a calming and energizing effect.

Read more about Columbia’s advances in Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion here and more about advances in Lung Transplantation here

To make an appointment, please call 855.CU.SURGE (855.287.8743).
For emergent transfers, call 800.NYP.STAT.