Double Lung Transplant Patient Pays Tribute to Donor's Family in the Rose Parade
Recipient of Lifesaving Transplant to Represent Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center on Parade Float
Contact: Soshea Leibler
|Michael Adams after American Lung Association Fight For Air Climb that took place in California's 2nd tallest building, the Aon Center, in Downtown Los Angeles. April 2014. 63 stories.|
Los Angeles - Dec. 22, 2014 - Hours before receiving a lung transplant he thought would never happen, Michael Adams told his surgical team at Cedars-Sinai that he'd be happy to live just one more year.
Adams, 51, had suffered from cystic fibrosis since he was a baby. He'd been in and out of hospitals for as long as he could remember. By Thanksgiving of 2002, the former wheelchair company worker had end-stage disease. His lungs barely worked. Even eight liters of oxygen left him gasping for air.
"I went to my local hospital because I did not want to die at home," said Adams, who was given last rites by his pastor while bedridden in the Tarzana Medical Center.
Then Adams received the call that saved his life: Two healthy lungs had suddenly become available. They belonged to a 15-year-old boy who had been shot and killed on the steps of his church 78 miles away in San Bernardino. Adams was transferred immediately to Cedars-Sinai, where he underwent a double lung transplant.
"After my transplant I wanted to give back in gratitude for the gift I had received," he said.
In the 12 years since his transplant, Adams has dedicated himself to helping others with similar needs. He speaks regularly to patient groups and potential donors as an ambassador for OneLegacy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation in the Los Angeles area. Adams also is a "lung buddy" at Cedars-Sinai, offering support and encouragement to patients awaiting transplants or recovering from surgery.
"It is still very emotional for me because I got new lungs and a new healthy life because of the amazing heart of a grieving mother," Adams said. "I am also on the float representing them."
That grieving mother is Lesley Howe. Her son, Tory Howe-Lynch, was killed outside his San Bernardino church while he waited for choir practice to begin. When Howe was told her son would not recover, she decided to donate his organs, which went to five people, including Adams.
Howe believes her son Tory would have wanted her to donate his organs. "He showed his love to everyone he cared about," his mother recalled in a 2012 interview with a San Bernardino-area newspaper.
Since the transplant in 2002, Adams and Howe meet every December 6 – the date her son was killed and Adams received his new lungs – to remember the events of that bittersweet day. "Her big extended family has adopted me," Adams said. "I never forget how blessed I am to have Tory's lungs breathing for me, and it reminds us all of how special a person he was."
Cedars-Sinai transplant surgeons say they are pleased with Adams' recovery but bemoan the scarcity of organs for other severely ill patients.
"Organ shortages remain a critical problem," said Andrew S. Klein MD, MBA, director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center and the Esther and Mark Schulman Chair in Surgery and Transplantation Medicine. "Every day in this country, 18 people die because there are not enough organs for those who need them. That's why we are so appreciative of Lesley Howe's courage and commitment."
Adams said he lives life to the fullest since his transplant. He goes scuba diving, plays tennis in the Transplant Games of America and participates in the annual high-rise Stair Climb for the American Lung Association – unimaginable pursuits for nearly all of his life.
Adams' doctors say they are gratified by his recovery.
"Seeing Michael Adams thrive for over a decade makes the hard work very worthwhile," said George Chaux, MD, medical director of the Lung Transplant Center at Cedars-Sinai. "This is the reason we got into this career. This is the reward."