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Dave K., MI

-For the past four years I have gone to my doctor and talked about a cough, keeps up at night and lasted most of the day.  The doctors thought I had allergies, maybe bronchitis. I am 56 with no risk factors (no smoking, history...).

-In November, my wife and I adopted our second set of children ages 5 and 6.  Bringing our family to a wonderful size of nine.  We have two natural children ages of 28 (married) and 24, two we adopted in 2016 ages 9 and 10, and the two we adopted in 2019.  We are very blessed.

-In December, I had two bouts of 103 fevers both keeping me out of my job as a special education teacher for numerous days.  I went to the doctors for both occasions and was given a nebulizer and antibiotics.  Over the Christmas break, we were on a cruise out of Florida, and I started coughing up blood.

-Upon returning home to Michigan, I went to my doctor to follow up and they had me go get a CT scan.  That is where everything changed.  First they thought I had TB, and tried to treat me... and sent me home in a couple of days.  The next Monday, I was called and told I had cancer and that someone will be calling me in a week to talk about options... No sleep here.

-I met with the doctors in Grand Rapids, MI and sought out a second opinion from IU seeing a world renowned doctor who both expressed that treatment is only temporary... But my cancer is slow growing and had been around for a years.  They recommended I start treatment, placed a port in me and gave me Keytruda, Alimta, and Carboplatin. I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer -the survival rate for one year (if you read statistics) is 5%. - and had the KRAS mutation- only 20% of people with this mutation respond well to chemotherapy-that leaves 1% chance of survival.

-My wife and I talked to the Oncologist about meeting the lung transplant team.  Who set up a meeting with the Spectrum Health Heart and Lung Transplant Center.  At the Lung Transplant Center, they immediately told me that I was not a candidate and can see my in a year, cancer, but after further conversations and questions, the doctor told us that he could see us in six months.  He heard me cough, and asked "do you cough up mucus?" - That was the game changer.  He called two days later and set me up to be evaluated by the team. -Cancer is a disqualifier for any transplant-Neither Ann Arbor nor Henry Ford would have given me a second thought, but the local lung transplant doctors cared enough to dig deeper and approved me for a transplant.

-Insurance denied me. My transplant score was low so the lung doctors asked for an exception but it was denied with a 7-0 vote by the National Transplant Board. A friend said in jest that maybe my score would be bumped up if his last name was a famous one.

-In July, my oxygen level was at 72, I was prescribed oxygen and on July 25 - I told my wife, we need to start planning my funeral.

-I got the call that very day! The lungs were healthy, the entire transplant surgery went well and after 10 days in the hospital, I am back home, loving my family and walking about two miles a day.

First Published: September 22, 2020

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