Local man gets life-saving "breathing lungs"

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A new device is helping open the door for more people in need of a life-saving lung transplant.

"I guess I was in the right place at the right time," said Thomas Puskar, of Tresckow, Pennsylvania.

At that time, 62-year-old Puskar said he was struggling to breathe. It was shortly after Thanksgiving when he started to feel sick.

Tests revealed he had pulmonary fibrosis in his left lung, scar tissue was building up and he needed a lung transplant.

At Temple University Hospital, they are now using a new machine called TransMedics Organ Care System. It is a portable device that keeps organs functioning after removal from the donor.

The FDA approved expanding the use of the so-called "breathing lungs" to include donor lungs that are sometimes ruled out due to minor issues that can be resolved, and to lungs that are too far to transport by traditional means in a cooler.

Puskar was the first patient to benefit from the device at Temple.

Transplant surgeon Dr. Yoshiya Toyoda said it will allow more people on the waiting list to get a life-saving lung transplant.

"These patients are sometimes very sick and they quickly die. But with this technology, we can accept more donors. That will be very helpful for these patients," he said.

Puskar's surgery was successful and he no longer needs oxygen.

"It's just nice to wake up in the morning and just say, 'I don't have to have it on, go for a ride.' You don't have to have it, it's great," he said.

He is also grateful the device will help other people like him and that he now has more energy to keep up with his grandkids.
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