Our Stories

Ashley Ramirez, 24 Years Old

My name is Ashley (aka Tinkerbell) and I am 24 years old. I received my double lung transplant on 1/7/2005 at the University of California San Francisco and have been great ever since! My initial disease was papillary thyroid cancer that spread to my lungs and the best treatment was radioactive iodine. My type of cancer ate that right up but unfortunately left my damaged lungs in its wake. I got worse and worse and was soon diagnosed as having pulmonary fibrosis or scarred lung which is much different than cystic fibrosis that most kids my age get. I’ve had my ups and downs since everything happened which is only natural but my main goal is to always try to keep a positive attitude but never be afraid to cry or be frustrated and also to live life to the fullest.

Ann W., Scottsdale, AZ, ​Transplant #1

The road to lung transplantation is long and terrifying.  First, your health deteriorates to the point where breathing is the hardest thing you have to do and the oxygen tank becomes your dearest friend.  After you have gone slowly downhill you realize your quality of life is diminishing to the point where every little thing becomes a major chore.  If you are lucky you will have a Pulmonologist who will suggest a lung transplant.After you have gone through a myriad of tests, and it is determined you are a candidate for a transplant, you go on the waiting list.  In my case, the wait was only 1 week. When the call came at 3:45 A.M. April 13, 2007, I was excited and really not scared at all.  I was put on alert at that time and told to be ready while the lungs were checked by the organ recovery team. I went to the hospital at 10:30 A.M. and my surgery started at around 6 P.M.  Brandi, the transplant Coordinator kept my family informed every step of the way, and that helped them a lot.  I spent nine days in St. Joseph’s and was the first lung transplant performed there.  The team of doctors was absolutely fantastic and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.  My life has changed dramatically since that day.  Through the gift given to me by a special family, I now have the luxury of breathing freely and enjoying life like I haven’t done in the last 10 years.

Norm L., Glendale, AZ, Transplant # 6

​My name is Norm and I had a double lung transplant on august 6th,2007. I was the 6thtransplant recipient out of St. Joseph’s hospital.  I was originally diagnosed with COPD after further testing it was found that I also had Valley Fever spots.  As time went on my condition was getting worse and I finally got the call that I had been placed on the transplant list.  I had been on oxygen 24/7 for the last six weeks, but now it was just a matter of time before I could breathe again.  I got “the call” that they had lungs for me a little over 48 hours later.  It generally does not happen that quickly, but fortunately it did for me.  On August 6, 2007, I received my transplant. 

​I am currently 58 years old although my lungs are 20.I know this because I had the honor of meeting my donor family in august of 2010.It was the most incredible and humbleing experience of my life. To meet the family whose son gave me another chance at life is like something you can never imagine. We also got to meet the other 3 recipients that got organ transplants from my donor. Currently, I am in better shape than I was in high school. I work out at least 3 times a week doing tredmill,alyptical,and a little weight. I also go hiking in the mountains around Carefree and Roosevelt Lake in the winter and hike around Flagstaff in the summer. That’s pretty good for a guy who needed a scooter to shop at the grocery store. I’m currently involved in my daughter’s soccer and taking care of my 3 dogs.

Gerry Gomes, UCLA Transplant

​I am a Registered Nurse who has spent over 30 years caring for others. When I was 42 years old, I found out that I had Scleroderma. Scleroderma is an incurable auto-immune disease that depending on type attacks the skin, and destroys the heart, kidneys and lungs. As a result, I eventually developedpulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension and soon after was inrespiratory failure. I needed oxygen to walk around and to perform regular activities of daily living. I was slowly dying. My health also deprived me of working in my beloved profession and soon I was disabled.

​In March 4th 2004, a wonderful event happened. I received a miracle! I had adouble lung transplant at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. The lungs were a gift of life and a second chance. I had to learn how to breathe with my new lungs and soon after was enjoying all the things that were once impossible. I now wake up smiling and rejoice each day that I am alive. Seven years have now past and I have not regretted having the transplant.

Mike P., Sun City, AZ, ​Waiting

My name is Mike and I have C.O.P.D. I currently have a twelve percent lung capacity. I require oxygen at night and part of the day with exertion. I was on the lung transplant list at St. Joseph’s for ten days, when they found Medullary Carcinoma. Now, I’m off the list for three to five years. I have had two P.E.T. scans, and they both have come back showing no Cancer. I keep myself fit with exercises, eat healthy and stay positive knowing that I will get a transplant in the future.

Gail P., Sun City, AZ, Caregiver

​I am the caregiver to my husband Mike who has C.O.P.D. As a caregiver, you need to be patient. To help your loved one and yourself, let them be the person they are. Learn not to be overprotective because they have a life to live as best possible. When it comes time for a transplant they are emotionally and physically fit. Medicine has come a long way for people with lung diseases. Most of all, I recommend that any caregiver consider counseling because of the constant stress on your life.

Carl J., Sun Lakes, AZ, Transplant # 4

​In 1997, I was diagnosed with having C.O.P.D. By 2004, my ability to breathe on my own had diminished to the point that I was on oxygen 24/7. In May of 2007, my wife and I met with the doctors at the HLI at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. We had pretty much given up hope for a “cure” of my health problems. I had been going to the Veteran’s Hospital in Phoenix and after months of testing to determine whether or not I could be a candidate for a lung transplant I was denied. They considered me too old as I had just turned 65 the previous day.

Tiffany S., Glendale, AZ, USC Transplant

​I received a double lung transplant in June of 2002. My diagnosis was Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. I was on the list for 2.5 years at USC before the law changed to allow the sickest person to move to the top of the transplant list. I moved to Arizona for a better quality of life and a couple of years later my transplant team moved to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. They opened the new Heart and Lung wing at St. Joseph’s. We had support group meetings, and I was the old Veteran at that time 5.5 years out. It was a blessing to all the new transplant patients; showing them that there is hope past transplant. I just celebrated my 7th year anniversary.

Steve G., Sun Lakes, AZ, Transplant #13

​Living with asthma and bronchiectasis all my life I was forced to retire from teaching when I was 60. At 64, I made the decision to have a lung transplant since that was basically the only option I had. I was on the transplant list for only 2 weeks and in the hospital for 22 days after the transplant. It took a little longer since I was very weak going into the transplant. Since that time, I have lived the most wonderful life enjoying not having to work to keep enough oxygen in my system. I thank God each day for the loving person who donated my lungs.

Michele H.

Following our transplants, Carl and I had a desire to do whatever we could to help future transplants that we started the groundwork for the LTSO. We have been blessed with a second chance at life and wish to pay forward on our blessing. Having been born with a medical condition known as Cystic Fibrosis I was told that I would not live to see my 26th birthday. In spring of 2007 I reached end stage CF and was placed on oxygen 24/7. My pulmonary doctor of 15 years Amy Silverthorn recommended that I consider a lung transplant and referred me to the HLI. After meeting the team and serious consideration I decided to go ahead with the transplant testing and in May I was listed for a transplant at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. On 10-20-07, I received my gift of life. I am very thankful to my donor and donor family for this precious gift. I am now a year and half post transplant and have had the opportunity to experience life as a healthy individual doing things I never dreamed possible such as participating in a 5K walk/run.