The medical technology of organ donation has saved many lives, but it's estimated that around 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant, and it can be hard to find the right match. Organ donation is complicated and can be risky. The blood type has to be matched between the recipient and the donor, and the size and age have to be compatible.
If you have severe COPD or another lung disease, receiving a lung transplant might be an option for you. This might be an option so you won't need to depend on an oxygen concentrator for the rest of your life, or need a battery of medications to keep your lungs functioning as close to properly as possible.
The Process and What to Expect
Your doctor will determine whether or not you are a good candidate for receiving a lung transplant. If he thinks you can benefit from a lung transplant, he will give you a referral to an organ transplant facility, where you will be evaluated to see if you are indeed a good candidate. After you've gone through the process of evaluation and finding a transplant hospital close to where you live (within 2 hours by car), you can register to be placed on the transplant waiting list.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, the average wait time for a lung transplant is 141 days, but it can be longer.
You also need to understand that after you receive a transplant, you will need to take autoimmune drugs to make sure your body won't try to reject your new lungs. These immunosuppressant drugs that you will need to take for the rest of your life have side effects. They are known to contribute to bone density loss and will weaken your immune system, which will make you more susceptible to diseases. Your doctor will go over the risks you are taking with getting a lung transplant.
According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins, a double lung transplant is much more effective and will help you to live up to ten times longer. Since you have COPD, you might only need one, but getting a double lung transplant can ensure your long-term survival.
After your lung transplant, you can expect to wake up with a tube inside you that will help you breathe while your new lungs are healing. You will be in the ICU for a few days, and spend some more time in another area of the hospital while the doctors and nurses keep an eye on you.
Can I Still Donate My Organs if I have COPD?
You might also be wondering if you should bother to register as an organ donor if you have a chronic lung disease. Most of the time, the only cases where someone is ineligible to donate is if they have been tested HIV positive.
Sometimes people with cancer or who have been diagnosed with diabetes or hepatitis can still donate. Age also will not necessarily count you out for being an organ donor. Your kidneys, liver, pancreas, along with many other tissues and organs can still be in good shape.