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Tom M., IA

I am a 61-year-old double lung transplant survivor. I received my new lungs on June 27, 2009, from the University of Iowa Hospital. Thanks to my donor family, my skilled surgeons and the entire lung transplant team at the University of Iowa Hospital, I have my life back.

In 1982, I was diagnosed with a disease known as sarcoidosis, which causes inflammation and scaring and can affect many different organs of the body including the lungs. At the time I was diagnosed, I had already lost approximately 40 percent of my lung capacity. Approximately three years prior to my transplant, my ability to breathe and perform normal, everyday activities seemed to becoming more difficult.

In the summer of 2008, I was put on oxygen to keep my blood oxygen level high enough to stop the damage the lack of oxygen to my heart was causing. I had to sleep with the aid of oxygen and carried a portable oxygen tank with me at all times. My daily activities were very limited. Climbing the stairs to my bedroom was a struggle.

My passion for clean air stems from many sources. Now that I have new, healthy lungs, I don't want them to be destroyed by toxins such as cigarette smoke or chemicals produced by coal-fired power plants. Clean air is and will be critical for my children and grandchildren to have a healthy life.

I have become more actively involved with the American Lung Association. With the help of my sons, we organized a team for the Fight for Air Climb last year. Our team name was "TEAM 27," because I was the 27th lung transplant recipient at the University of Iowa Hospital. We had 15 members on our team and raised over $6,200 for the Lung Association.

I also participated in the Lung Association's grassroots advocacy efforts in Washington D.C. this past September. I even visited Capitol Hill to ask my representatives in Congress to protect the Clean Air Act. I was also asked to be the state captain for the Fighting for Air Action Network, which I was honored to accept.

The bottom line is this: we need to assure that everyone, now and in the future, has clean air to breathe!! Every breath is a gift.

First published: November 9, 2011

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