By Erica Pepper, daughter of transplant recipient

My father, Jim, had a double lung transplant in October 2012. He went from having an active lifestyle with zero issues to the severe, sudden onset of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The only treatment for pulmonary fibrosis is a lung transplant.

Erica with her father, Jim Pepper.

Erica with her father Jim.

Just before his transplant, dad was breathing with the aid of an oxygen tank 24/7. He couldn’t walk up five steps without getting winded and had coughing fits so violent that he ended up breaking ribs.

On October 7, 2012 he was listed on the national transplant registry. We received “the call” that a set of lungs was available for him on October 21, 2012 – just a few short weeks later! We waited anxiously while he underwent the six-hour transplant surgery.

Seeing my dad right after surgery was intimidating with all of the tubes and machines hooked up to his body. He was groggy, but I vividly remember his sense of humor. He had a little spit tube that he kept pointing at us like it was a magic wand and saying “Poof!” It was a relief to see him in such good spirits.

After about two weeks of lung therapy and exercises post-transplant, his oxygenation started to improve. The day I walked into his hospital room and he wasn’t wearing his oxygen was unforgettable!

We have been fortunate and have corresponded with the donor family. We know that his donor, Jamie, loved the outdoors and horses. Dad is grateful to have the ability to thank his donor’s family and acknowledge the wonderful gift their loved one gave to him.

Dad’s story inspires me to support Lifeline of Ohio and the Dash for Donation, along with the American Transplant Foundation to help spread awareness of the importance of being a registered organ donor.

Erica and her friend Sarah having a great time while supporting organ donation.

We are so grateful to Jamie who said “yes” to organ donation, giving my father his “second birthday”.