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Device helps man withstand lung transplant

Device helps man withstand lung transplant

August 2nd, 2011 in News

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A former Pike County coal miner who suffered from black lung has successfully used a new device at the University of Kentucky Medical Center that helps patients with lung transplants.

Ernie Gillispie, 68, was the first patient to undergo the treatment at the hospital, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader (

Doctors had told Gillispie in February that he was too sick for a double-lung transplant and suggested he try the enhanced form of a long-used strategy called ECMO - extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The device allowed him to walk and strengthen his body enough to allow a transplant, which was performed in April.

At a checkup last week, he scored above normal on lung capacity. Gillispie said he thinks the device saved his life.

UK said the procedure has since been performed on three other patients.

The technology increases life-saving possibilities for residents of Kentucky, a state in which respiratory disease is listed as the fourth leading cause of death by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors diagnosed Gillispie with black lung in 2004. When he met UK transplant surgeon Charles Hoopes in February, Gillispie could barely walk and was using a wheelchair.

"You lose every bit of your air," Gillispie said of the disease. "It's like putting your hand over your mouth and trying to breathe through it."

His outlook without the device wasn't good. Hoopes told his patient he probably wouldn't make it to a transplant.

Gillispie had run out of other options, so he decided to give the mobile ECMO a try. Two hours later, he could ride a stationary bike, and he was able to get a transplant a few days later.

Now, Gillispie said, he can look forward to spending time with his family, including his three children and three grandchildren.

"With all my heart, I think the ECMO machine saved my life to where I could get through to a transplant," he said.

Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,