Transplant recipient grateful

By Cloe Willetts

NEW LIFE: Paraparaumu Beach's Paul Judd was one of the 23 lung transplant recipients in New Zealand during 2015. Photo: Cloe Willetts
NEW LIFE: Paraparaumu Beach's Paul Judd was one of the 23 lung transplant recipients in New Zealand during 2015. Photo: Cloe Willetts

Paul Judd is 65 years old, but his lungs are 67 years old.

In fact, they used to belong to an entirely different man.

A man Paul has never met, but whose generous final gift to the world meant he was one of the 23 lung transplant recipients in New Zealand during 2015.

Paul, from Paraparaumu Beach, was sick with emphysema for 10 years before he finally received a double lung transplant, in an eight hour procedure at Auckland Hospital.

Emphysema, a lung disease caused by damage to the small air sacs in the lungs, was the result of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a hereditary condition Paul was diagnosed with 35 years ago.

As part of his condition, the father of two and grandfather experienced characteristic symptoms of emphysema, which include difficulty breathing, a hacking cough and a barrel-shaped chest.

Alpha-1, an enzyme deficiency, is normally passed down through the male and in Paul's case was inherited from his father, who passed away from its effects in 1980.

"We didn't know Dad had it as it was relatively unknown here at the time. He was probably misdiagnosed, as they talked about asthma for a long time.

"The condition came to light more after he died."

According to Paul, he was "blissfully ignorant" to the fact the condition could also affect him.

But four years after his symptoms began to emerge, his condition deteriorated rapidly and by 2015, his lungs were almost dead.

"I was so pleased to be offered the surgery," said Paul, who was in ICU for 24 hours before he woke from his surgery.

"The risks didn't concern me because I didn't have long to live."

Upon waking, Paul had what doctors called 125 per cent predicted lung function.

Following a 10 day stay in hospital, Paul started a five week rehabilitation process at Auckland's Greenlane Clinical Centre, in the Hearty Towers rehabilitation unit for transplant patients.

For the first six months, his life was "fantastic", before chronic rejection set in and he was rushed to hospital, resulting in his predicted lung function dropping to 80 per cent.

He learnt that, as a result of the transplant, he now has very little immunity and a simple cold can be potentially life threatening.

Since his surgery, he has had 13 hospital visits.

"I need to keep away from anyone with colds or flu, especially crowds of people because I tend to get infections easily."

He is also waiting for surgery to fix his ribs, which did not settle back in to place after the transplant, on top of daily pills and food restrictions, and ongoing blood tests.

Despite the setbacks, he is thankful for how lucky he is.

"I needed quite large lungs to fit my chest, of the right type, so if I'd waited even another few months, I might not be here now.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity and for the wonderful staff during that time."

He encouraged people 65 and under with a lung condition or alpha-1 to talk to their GP and ask for a referral to a respiratory specialist.

He also encouraged people to become organ donors.

While there were 61 deceased organ donors in New Zealand last year, at the moment, over 550 people are waiting for an organ or tissue transplant nationally.

"For people with medical conditions they have no control over, transplants can be life changing.

"Everybody should be a potential donor, because it allows other people to continue living."

- Kapiti News

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