Transplant Diagnosis: Chronic Rejection. Time to Laugh!

by Shannon Steffen on July 3, 2014

Keep Your JoyJust shy of my husband’s 10th transplant anniversary and he was given the news… “You’re in chronic rejection”, says the transplant doctor.

In his specific case, the air fills his “hand-me-down” lungs but, when he exhales, the air gets caught in microscopic air sacs. There’s no terminology or label for this specific lung malfunction so they group it into this thing called “chronic rejection”.

Well if that’s not just a shot in the pants!

There are so many reactions someone could have to hearing the term chronic rejection. But, what do we do? We laugh!

We laugh at labels and diagnoses. We laugh at how life is never dull. But, most of all, we laugh at the doctors and their silly prognoses.


Because the doctors have never been right when it comes to my husband.

Through Cystic Fibrosis, being on life support, waiting 3.5 years for a miracle double lung transplant, gaining 90% lung function when they told him he’ll get 60% tops, beating Stage 4 Lymphoma, and that’s not to mention all the daily small things he’s overcome like continuous infections, IV treatments, medications, oxygen, etc.

My husband is a medical enigma. He defies all logic. Heck, they even had to cauterize ¾ of his chest cavity during transplant because his blood vessels were growing towards his lungs to get more oxygen. This is something the surgeon had never seen before.

Again… he’s a freak I tell ya!

So, back to the actual diagnosis for all those still reading and wondering.

Hubs’ condition may be caused by life very low Tacrolimus (anti-rejection drug) during his 6-month chemotherapy treatment last year for the cancer. Or, it could be the fact that he has cultured positive (again) for Aspergillus (fungus) in his lungs. At this stage, we’re not sure – but what we do know is that his oxygen level is down a couple of points and PFTs (lung functions) have gone down dramatically since before the cancer diagnosis.

So, what’s the next step?

Bronchoscopy and biopsy of the lungs is being scheduled for next week.

In the meantime, his anti-rejection drug has been increased and they’ll be making him take some “goop” medication for the fungus.

Until then… it is my wifely duty to motivate him to exercise more, create yummy green juices to increase his nutritional intake, and make him laugh every moment that I can.

How to add laughter to a transplant recipient’s life?

  • Funny shows and movies.
  • Playing with silly dogs.
  • Trying new baking recipes and allowing ourselves to laugh when it flops.
  • Acting silly – no matter your age.
  • Finding the funny – even if it’s when your windshield wiper flies off on the freeway in a rain storm.
  • Searching for the silliest magazine cover at the hospital.
  • And more!

It is through laughter that life is truly lived… No matter what is going on around you.


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