• View all patient stories Sid Vahal's story

    Without the team at the UK Transplant Center, Sid knows he might not be here today.

  • He was rejected by numerous other transplant centers, but in August 2011, Vahal underwent a double-lung transplant at the University of Kentucky — the only possible option to save his life — after spending 55 days on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine. (3:29). Watch video in new window) » 

  • Sid's story

    “We found Dr. Charles Hoopes, and he was a miracle,” the 26-year-old says.

    The story of Vahal’s medical emergency that took him to the brink of death, began with what he thought was a common case of strep throat – sore throat, body aches and a fever.

    Unfortunately, these common symptoms turned into something more serious when he began to have joint inflammation, along with severe breathing problems.

    Vahal initially was admitted to a local hospital in his hometown of Cumming, Ga. Doctors were able to solve his joint inflammation issues, but couldn’t pinpoint the cause of his lung problem.

    “The breathing was getting really bad, I was running out of breath constantly,” Vahal said. “I could barely get out of bed and walk around to do normal activities.”

    With no resolution, and his breathing continuing to get worse, Vahal was transferred to a hospital in Atlanta. Doctors there were surprised by the severity of Vahal’s condition, finding significant lung damage that had caused both of his lungs to collapse.

    His prognosis was so poor that doctors indicated Vahal had only hours to live.

    “They called my parents and everybody in the family and let them know I had about six hours to live,” he said. “There was nothing they could do.”

    Immediately after hearing the news, Vahal’s father contacted several physician acquaintances to see if they had any advice that might help save his son’s life.

    A few mentioned a process called ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a technique that provides oxygen to patients whose heart and lungs are so severely diseased or damaged, they no longer work on their own. The adult hospital where Vahal was located did not have ECMO capabilities, but the children’s hospital next door did. Vahal was quickly rushed there and placed on ECMO.

    With ECMO keeping him alive, Vahal’s only option was to apply for admission at hospitals that could perform a lung transplant in his acute state. Several hospitals passed on admitting him, until Dr. Hoopes and the UK Transplant Center team agreed to provide the life-saving procedure.

    For Vahal, it was a miracle.

    He was transferred to the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital. Though Vahal knew his situation was severe, he said Dr. Hoopes assured him the transplant could be successfully completed.

    It was, and today Vahal is alive and getting healthier every day.

    “You take breathing oxygen in and out for granted until it happens to you,” he says. “Lungs are not only very sensitive organs that are extremely critical, but the effect it has on your body if your lungs are damaged is absolutely horrifying.”

    He said that as his health continues to improve, he’s having urges to get up, go outside and enjoy the things that were so difficult for him prior to his transplant.

    “The very first thing I am going to do is go back to my new house and just enjoy life,” he said.


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    Expert perspectives from UK physicians on the latest medical breakthroughs. Read online or subscribe via mail to one of these areas: 

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Page last updated: 4/3/2014 1:52:51 PM