Do you think about breathing? I mean, really think about it? After all, it's automatic.You don't have to make yourself breathe. It just happens. Until it doesn't.
It took a bad case of pneumonia six years ago to elevate breathing to front and center of my consciousness. A night in the ER, a chest x-ray and a couple of rounds of antibiotics later, I was recovering nicely from the infection. That's when I got the real news. Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. I could barely pronounce it, much less explain it. The ER docs had seen something suspicious on my chest x-ray and now I was sitting in the office of my new pulmonologist. The guy talked a mile a minute and he might as well have been speaking Greek. But a few words lingered. Among them were "terminal" and "lung transplant".
Neither of those things figured into my short-term thinking, and since I had no symptoms, the diagnosis didn't seem real. I had put my future in God's hands a half a century before, and I trusted Him. But this new lung doc was insistent. A month later, still asymptomatic, I walked into Baylor St. Lukes for a preliminary appointment with the Lung Transplant Team.
"What am I doing here?" I remember thinking.
It was almost embarrassing. I was healthy and energetic. I wasn't on oxygen. I wasn't in a wheelchair. I didn't belong in this waiting room with people who were clearly fighting for their lives.
I still had a lot to learn. IPF is a disease that doesn't always present with symptoms in the beginning. In fact, the transplant doctors explained that patients could go for years with no decline, then suddenly, without warning, could fall off what they described as a "cliff". And once you took that dive, there was no going back.
The trick is transplanting someone before they reach the cliff's edge. In my case, this meant years of regular exams, breathing tests, spirometry and chest x-rays. Ironically, as the medical stuff was ramping up, I was also back in the studio to begin recording my first solo album. Some days I was in voice and other days, not. The studio is forgiving in that you can cut tracks until you get them right. Having a great engineer like George Matranga helped immensely. George's patience showed up at every session.
It took me six years to finally reach the edge. By then I’d already released "The Man I Should Be". I went on the waiting list for a lung just as we finished recording "Nothin' But Time". Ironically, the release had to be put on hold when St. Luke's called three days later. It was Sunday afternoon and I was out on the tractor mowing. They had a lung for me and they wanted to do the transplant the next morning at 6:30 am. I spent the next three weeks in Intensive Care, learning more about breathing than I'd ever imagined possible.
As of this writing, I'm at the three-month post transplant mark. I’m so grateful for the many prayers offered on my behalf and for the Lord’s miraculous healing. The medical team personnel at St Luke’s were exceptional and I received excellent care, but I never forget that though doctors can cut and stitch, if God doesn’t cause your body to heal, all is lost.
I’m getting stronger everyday and I'm ready to begin another project as soon as Heart Of The Arts studio is up and running. We’re almost there, thanks to generous gifts from so many of you!
Whatever challenge you’re facing, I pray you’ll trust our Lord Jesus to take you through!