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Following lung transplant, resident eager to get out sailing

By Staff | Dec 22, 2010

A Cape Coral resident who had severe pulmonary fibrosis had a double lung transplant six weeks ago, which allowed her to begin planning a well overdue day trip out on the sailboat again.
After Linda and Bobby Easterly moved to Cape Coral three years ago, her pulmonary fibrosis became worse, which prevented them from going sailing because Linda had to stay within two and a half hours of Tampa General Hospital once she was placed on a waiting list for a double lung transplant.
Pulmonary fibrosis occurs when there is progressive scarring of lung tissue. It typically begins after there is repeated injury to tissue that is within and between the tiny air sacs of the lungs. Once the scarring takes place it makes it harder for an individual to breathe.
Since her condition increased she had to have an oxygen tank with her at all times.
“The biggest reason why I wanted my strength back is because I wanted to get on the sailboat again,” she said.
Easterly began working to get on the waiting list for a lung transplant on Jan. 2 of this year. After submitting paperwork for two locations, insurance finally accepted the third location of Tampa General Hospital for the lung transplant she needed. By the time she was accepted, she only had to wait seven weeks before she received the call.
“It has been quite a ride,” she said.
Once the insurance accepted Tampa General, she had to go through three solid days of testing to make sure her body was well enough to have a transplant. After the testing, the doctors began to search for the same B blood type, along with the same size lungs.
“For me that was a huge problem,” she said, due to her lung cavity shrinking due to the pulmonary fibrosis.
Easterly said the transplant took 10 hours to complete. Although patients are expected to be in the hospital for three weeks for recovery, she was sent home 11 days after the transplant was complete to fully recover.
“I feel so extremely lucky,” she said.
System Director for Transplant and Dialysis for Lee Memorial Health System Dave Mainous said they perform between 35-50 kidney transplants a year, due to the eight kidney transplant locations in the state of Florida.
“The demand is incredible,” he said about the 100,000 people on the waiting list. “We have always had a problem of supply, regardless of what we do. It seems that we will never be able to meet that demand.”
Mainous said the quickest way for an individual to become a donor is to sign the back of their driver’s license. Once an individual chooses to become a donor, he said it is determined by medical staff of who is suitable for the organ donation.
“It is seen as one of the highest acts of kindness and giving,” he said.
Now that Easterly is feeling much better, her wish of returning to the water for a day sail will take place just as soon as the weather is nice, calm and warm.
“I just want to go out for the day and have that wind in my face and that feeling of being out at sea,” Easterly said.
She hopes that other boats from her sailing club will go out with them to have a celebration.
“When you turn off the engines and all you hear is the wind between the sails, it is an incredible peaceful moment that is priceless,” she explained is why she enjoys sailing.
LifeLink of Florida, a non-profit organ and tissue recovery organization serves 15 counties in Florida, which helps a population of 4.7 million people and 66 hospitals. Lee Memorial Health System works with LifeLInk, which is based out of Tampa.
The waiting list for those who need a kidney, pancreas, heart and/or liver transplants is more than 4,000 Floridians, which is less than the 107,000 Americans who are waiting for an organ transplant.