Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 9:20 EDT

Vietnam War Era Veteran Receives 100th Lung Transplant at St. Joseph’s Hospital

November 10, 2011

PHOENIX, Nov. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — On the eve of Veterans Day, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center announced that a 62-year-old Vietnam War era veteran has become the hospital’s 100th lung transplant patient.

The Phoenix hospital’s young lung transplant program was launched four years ago and has attracted patients from throughout the western United States. Prior to the launch of the St. Joseph’s program, many Arizona lung transplant candidates had to travel to California for the complex procedure. Tucson’s University Medical Center houses the only other Arizona lung transplant program.

“I’m looking forward to a lot of activities in my life again,” says Kenneth Mercer, the 100th transplant patient and a 20-year Air Force veteran at a press conference Thursday. “But most of all I’m looking forward to going fishing again,” said the Chandler resident.

Mercer, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was on oxygen and at times had only a 17 percent lung capacity before the both his lungs were transplanted on Oct. 29. “It seems a little strange not to be gasping for breath. I feel very good and am so grateful to have been put on the transplant list and for the physicians here at St. Joseph’s,” says Mercer a former master sergeant who served throughout Southeast Asia during the war.

Also at the press briefing Thursday was the hospital’s first lung transplant patient, Scottsdale resident Anne Wylie, 65, who has enjoyed traveling to her homeland of Scotland twice since her lung transplant in 2007. “I was given my life back,” she said.

The St. Joseph’s lung transplant program underlines St. Joseph’s long history of transplant leadership, which has included adult heart, lung, kidney and pediatric heart. The lung program is headed by Ross Bremner, MD, PhD and has included patients from ages 16 to 71. Lung transplants are among the most complicated surgical procedures. The lung transplant multidisciplinary team selects candidates who are eligible and places them on the United Network for Organ Sharing transplant list. Surgeons have approximately six hours to transplant a lung once one is retrieved. Following surgery, lung transplant recipients receive lifelong care and regular check-ups with pulmonologists.

“We are extremely proud of this program,” said Dr. Bremner, Chief Thoracic Surgeon at St. Joseph’s Heart and Lung Institute. “It has grown extraordinarily quickly and has been recognized for excellence by a number of highly respected organizations.” Dr. Bremner said that the weekend of Mercer’s surgery, two other patients also received new lungs at St. Joseph’s.

Michael Smith, MD and Jasmine Huang, MD, were Mercer’s transplant surgeons. Dr. Smith pointed out that the St. Joseph’s program has “achieved very strong survival rates that are above the national average. The one-year survival rate for St. Joseph’s patients is more than 90 percent.”

Dr. Huang noted that Mercer was extremely motivated during his recovery and always had a “can do” attitude. “When I see a patient like Mr. Mercer doing well after lung transplantation, that is when I get emotional,” said Dr. Huang. “The difference in their quality of life is profound and gratifying.”

St. Joseph’s transplant team includes five lung transplant surgeons, four pulmonologists and a number of specialized nurses and other clinical staff.

SOURCE St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Arizona

Source: PR Newswire