Lung Transplant Recipient Thanks UTMB Staff

June 20, 2012

GALVESTON — Lung-transplant recipient Mike Bright wound up back at John Sealy Hospital a year after surgery. He wanted it that way.

“I have a lot of people to thank,” said Bright, 60, an aerospace manager from League City. “My nurses, my doctors, all of the staff — they took care of me like my mother would have.”

Bright underwent a successful single-lung transplant on June 11, 2011, and returned exactly one year later along with his wife, Sherri, and a cake for his caregivers that read, “Thank you to an awesome team.” The Brights spent the afternoon on his ninth-floor ward, hugging personnel and passing out cake.

In January 2011, Bright sought help from physicians in Houston because of a quick and persistent onset of shortness of breath. He struggled through his workday and quit his workouts at the gym. A nonsmoker, Bright was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease of unknown origin that progressively gets worse.

“They told me I had three to five years until things would go bad,” he said.

During the next several weeks, Bright became dissatisfied with his medical care and his condition deteriorated faster than expected.

With the help of his wife, Bright met Dr. Vincent Valentine, a transplant pulmonologist, professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and medical director of UTMB’s Texas Transplant Center.

“This all happened after a lot of prayers by many people,” Bright said.

“Dr. Valentine saw the urgency of my situation right away and got me on the transplant list,” Bright said.

Three days later, he underwent surgery at John Sealy Hospital.

“It seemed like a miracle. I had a donor in three days. That’s almost unheard of,” Bright said. Dr. Scott Lick and Dr. Daniel Beckles, cardiothoracic surgeons with the Texas Transplant Center, performed the operation.

Valentine said the real marvel is how Bright’s wife got the patient and physician together. Sherri, a dental assistant in League City, had talked to her co-workers about her husband’s declining health and his disappointment with his medical care. They recommended Valentine, who was a patient at the dental clinic.

“If there’s any miracle here,” Valentine said with a smile, “it’s that I went to the dentist.”

Bright was able to see Valentine and get most of his post-transplant care at the Victory Lakes Town Center Transplant Clinic, which is about a five-minute drive from the Bright home.

The Texas Transplant Center has performed more than 3,000 kidney, heart, liver, lung and pancreatic transplants. It established the region’s first kidney transplantation program in 1967. The center has been developing its lung program, performing 10 transplants last year and receiving Medicare approval in March.

Bright’s prognosis is good. He is back to work after being off for six months. He walks without any help and has resumed his regimen of exercise, including going to the gym five to six days a week and riding bikes with his wife on the Galveston seawall.

Valentine said Bright met the profile of a good candidate for organ implantation.

“You have to be sick enough to need it, well enough to survive it, and psychosocially fit enough to endure it,” Valentine said.

Valentine said patients with emotional stability and good relationships do best after surgery.

“You need the help of caregivers first of all,” he said. “You can’t do this alone.”

The patient also needs to adhere to regimens of exercise and medication, and be able to cope with uncertainty in the course of their recovery, Valentine said.

This article is from the Galveston Daily News.