LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — London resident Mike Hamm knew he was in bad physical health.
Last year, he was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a condition in which the lungs harden and do not expand. The condition caused Hamm to be “short winded” because when the lungs could not expand, he could not take in oxygen as he should.
“The right side of the heart pumps in the oxygenated blood and the left side sends it out into the body,” Hamm said. “I wasn’t getting the oxygen in to pump it back out.”
Hamm was placed on medication, which “helped some,” but he underwent a steady decline. Last November, his condition took a serious leap for the worse.
“I fell over a cliff,” he said as he described his sudden decline. “I had to sit down to brush my teeth and I had to take a wheelchair from the bedroom to the bathroom. I was out of breath all the time.”
He went to Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville on two occasions, on the recommendation of his friend, Johnny Watkins, who was a double lung recipient several years ago. But Vanderbilt was not in the medical network coverage on Hamm’s insurance, so he began seeing specialists at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital instead.
“I went on November 25 and the nurse there said she would do testing immediately. She called the next day,” Hamm related. “They did a heart catherization, Cat scans, breathing tests, blood work — everything. That was on Wednesday.”
His test results were good but he was told to come back to Louisville on Monday to see if he was approved for the transplant list.
“Halfway home, she called to say I was approved,” he said. “I went on the (organ recipient) list December 9.”
Less than 24 hours later, Hamm received a call that a lung was available and that he needed to return to Louisville immediately.