Posted on Sat, Mar. 24, 2007
Man recovering after lung transplant
By MITCH MITCHELL
For nearly seven months, Jerrold Dash breathed uneasily as he awaited two new lungs from an organ donor.
A Fort Worth resident and nonsmoker, Dash tried not to worry about whether his lung cancer was spreading and whether he could die. While awaiting surgery in California, he relieved his anxiety by working out regularly, chatting with loved ones and chronicling his experiences on a blog -- always remaining hopeful.
This month, Dash, 33, got bittersweet news. A 30-year-old organ donor had died and his lungs were a match. Dash's wife, Rhonda Dash, arrived in Palo Alto just 2 1/2 hours before his March 6 surgery, which lasted seven hours.
"I got to the hospital just in time to talk to him and pray together," Rhonda Dash said.
Dash was released from the hospital March 15. He anticipates returning to Fort Worth by late June or early July. He had been living in California for almost a year awaiting the transplant while his wife and two young daughters stayed in Fort Worth.
As soon as Jerrold Dash can find the words, he said, he will thank the donor family in a letter he will give to a social worker at Stanford University Medical Center. Medical personnel are not allowed to reveal donor information.
All indications are that Dash's lung cancer did not spread and that his new lungs are functioning better than expected, he said.
He remains determined to help fight cancer in any way he can -- including speaking at schools and churches. The Lockheed Martin Aeronautics systems engineer donated his old lungs for research.
"In April, I will get to have a private moment with them before they slice and dice them," Dash said.
For the next few weeks, Dash must wear a mask that will help prevent infections. For the rest of his life, Dash must watch for signs of infection or tissue rejection. But the longer he remains clear of infections and the longer his body does not reject the donated organs, the better his chances are for a long and healthy life, his wife said.
Dash was one of two people with his diagnosis on the transplant waiting list in late December. Transplants for people with lung cancer are rare because of the chances of the disease spreading, said Dr. David Weill, head of Stanford's lung transplant program.
"I'm cancer-free now," Dash said. "I can do anything that I want to do."
He isn't strong enough to work out yet. Before the surgery, the exercise fanatic lifted weights at the YMCA; he used to be a fullback at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.
"Jerrold was out of the hospital in a remarkable amount of time," said Allyson Rupp, a clinical social worker at the hospital where Dash had the surgery. "He is extremely well-built physically, and he has such an outstanding attitude. He doesn't complain about anything, and he worries about everyone else around him."
At the Dash family's church, East St. Paul Baptist Church in Fort Worth, March 11 was Jerrold Dash Day. The Rev. L.S. Wilson, senior pastor, said congregants collected an offering to help offset the Dashes' medical and related expenses. Wilson said he also encouraged others to become organ donors, because "there are a lot of other families like the Dashes out there."
Speaking out in favor of organ donation is a New Year's resolution that Dash said he is determined to keep.
"This is an opportunity to effect change in myself and others," Dash said. "This game, this cancer game has gone on for far too long. If they don't hear me one way, they will hear me another way. The lung cancer statistics are grim and negative, but I would caution anyone to bet against me. You'll lose every time."
In the Know
- March 5: Dash receives call that donor lungs are available
- March 6: Receives double lung transplant in a seven-hour operation
- March 7: Moves to intermediate intensive care unit
- March 8: Sits up to eat for the first time since surgery
- March 9: Exercises for the first time since surgery (walks around nurses' station)
- March 11: Experiences a defibrillation attack (increased heart rate associated with transplant, typical in about a third of transplant recipients, according to his doctor)
- March 13: Receives keys to new apartment near Stanford University Medical Center and has another minor atrial defibrillation attack
- March 15: Discharged from hospital
Contact Jerrold Dash through his blog at 2newlungs.blogspot.com