LUMBERTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Organ transplants have given millions of people second chances. Temple Health alone has done more than a thousand lung transplants in 10 years. In this week's Moves in Medicine, we learn about the team effort to get a South Jersey man to transplant, and a healthy life beyond.
"I thought I had the flu. I was feeling really fatigued. It started with a fever and the cough," said Bobby Adams of Lumberton, New Jersey.
In days, Adams went from the picture of health to being unable to breath and being transferred to Temple University Hospital for its lung expertise.
"Very quickly (he) required mechanical ventilation support from a machine and very high doses of oxygen," said Dr. A. James Mamary, Thoracic Medicine, Temple Health. "And we never found a cause."
Dr. Mamary said Adams was in Acute Respiratory Distress. Normally, a ventilator gives the lungs a chance to rest and heal themselves. But Adams didn't improve, despite weeks on a ventilator, then the more advanced ECMO external lung.
"Every time we woke Bobby up, we relieved the sedation and the muscle relaxers, his blood oxygen levels would plummet," said Dr. Mamary.
Finally, a more intense form of ECMO enabled Adams to wake up and begin evaluation and preparation for a lung transplant. He could also finally talk to his fiancé Ashley, whom he was supposed to marry in a few months.
"They decided to move that day up and get married in the hospital," said Dr. Mamary.
By that night, Adams was also getting a new set of lungs.
"Because of my condition, my understanding is that I went to the top of the regional list," said Adams.
With new lungs, and plenty of help, Adams regained his strength and everyday skills.
"I was working with physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists," he said. "That was a beautiful day when I could eat food again."
Six years later, Adams and Ashley are back to their active outdoor life now with two young daughters.
"My older daughter, we took her camping a few times. I take her camping in the backyard, that kind of stuff," he said.
Dr. Mamary said keeping transplanted lungs healthy can be tricky, suppressing the immune system just enough to prevent rejection, without leaving them vulnerable to infections. Adams continually works with his team to keep that balance.