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Paul McGuinness: Lung Transplant Patient Story

Paul McGuinness

The Challenge: Cystic Fibrosis

Not many people know what it’s like to be on the frontier of scientific advancement. But 67-year-old Avalon, Pa. resident, Paul McGuinness, knows all too well.

Paul recently celebrated his 30th anniversary post-double lung transplant, a procedure deemed experimental in 1988 since lung transplantation was still fairly new.

“Doctors gave me a 10 percent chance to live five years if I had the transplant,” Paul says. “The decision was easy for me. I wasn’t enjoying life before the transplant. I wanted some kind of future to look forward to.”

Since birth, Paul suffered from cystic fibrosis (CF), an inherited disease that causes the body’s glands to make abnormally thick, sticky mucous. This mucous build-up in the lungs puts people with CF at risk for chronic airway infections and obstructive lung disease.

For years, Paul struggled with his lungs until they were bad enough to warrant him a spot on the transplant waiting list. His lung function was so poor, doctors worried he wouldn’t even make it to transplant.

So, when the chance came to have the potentially life-changing — yet experimental — double lung transplant, Paul didn’t think twice before saying yes.

The Path to UPMC’s Lung Transplant Program

As a native Pittsburgher, Paul and his family knew he’d receive expert care at UPMC. In 1988, when Paul had his procedure, the UPMC Lung Transplant Program was a pioneering force.

Since the program’s inception in 1982, it has become one of the most recognized and experienced transplant programs in the world. UPMC surgeons have performed more than 2,100 lung and heart-lung transplants.

After spending 14 months on the transplant waiting list, new lungs became available for Paul.

In October of 1988, he finally had surgery, becoming the second person at UPMC to receive a double lung transplant.

“The transplant gave me a purpose in life,” Paul says. “Six months post-transplant, my doctors said that because of me, they were going to be able to do many more transplants. I’m still happy that I could contribute to other people’s lives in this way.”

The Results: 30 Years After Transplant

Thirty years post-transplant, Paul is considered the longest-living lung transplant recipient with CF in the United States. It’s a feat he takes seriously.

“Before my transplant, I was so sick I could barely do anything,” he says. “After getting my new lungs, I’ve learned to enjoy life.”

Now, if you want to find Paul, you might start looking at his favorite YMCA gym. Seven days a week, sometimes twice a day, he’s putting in his time on one of the gym’s many spin bikes.

“I usually spin for a half hour each morning,” Paul says. “I’m pretty lucky to have an independent life.”

Paul recalls a moment four years ago at UPMC that helped put his situation into perspective.

While getting coffee before a routine check-up, he ran into a woman and her 30-year-old daughter — a recent lung transplant recipient. Paul told them both about his biking at the Y and his life so many years after transplant.

The woman started crying. She was so happy that her daughter could potentially live a long life.

“I was happy I could give them some hope,” Paul says. “I owe a lot to the doctors and nurses at UPMC. They’ve kept me living a long time.”

Paul’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

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