For patients suffering terminal lung disease, the Lung Transplant Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston is a beacon of hope.
One of the many expert surgeons at Brigham, resident Dr. Daniel "Dibar" DiBardino is an up-and-coming star. After nearly a decade of training in the ultra-demanding cardiothoracic program, DiBardino, cocky and self-assured, is approaching the top of his game.
In April, DiBardino and his colleagues would be put to the test. A donor came up for two patients desperately awaiting lung transplants. A double transplant was suddenly in order. DiBardino was in charge of harvesting the lungs from the donor. He had had two hours' sleep.
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"Boston Med" cameras followed DiBardino and the senior attending physicians -- notably Dr. Michael D. Jacklitch and Dr. Phillip Camp, director of the transplant center -- in the lead-up to and aftermath of the surgery. We also spoke with lung recipients Maureen Bishop, 62, and Mary Ann White, 63, and their families.
"She is on oxygen 24-7 and the cord that she uses is a pain," said Ed White, Mary Ann's husband. "I was tripping over it and so was she."
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Maureen Bishop, 62, had smoked cigarettes and worked in heavy industry for decades. As a result, she developed emphysema. She could not breathe without an oxygen tank trailing her every step. She yearned for the simple things -- walking her dog, grocery shopping, attending church. She had been waiting for a lung transplant for three years.
Mary Ann White, 63, had no idea how she developed the progressive degenerative lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). A widowed mother of four with a gaggle of grandchildren and an adoring new husband, White also was on oxygen around the clock. She had waited 13 months for a transplant.
On April 5, 2009, White and Bishop received incredible news. They were each to receive a new lung from the same donor.
ABC News' Mary Flynn contributed to this report.
After 30 years of smoking, Bishop quit in 1999. Unfortunately, that wasn't soon enough.
Bishop was diagnosed with emphysema, one of two types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) -- the other being chronic bronchitis. Emphysema primarily affects the alveoli, or the tiny air sacs within the lungs, causing their deterioration. Chronic bronchitis is when the breathing passages of the lungs become inflamed and narrow, making breathing difficult and painful.
Although treatment exists to ease the coughing, wheezing and other symptoms associated with COPD, there is no cure.
Approximately 15 percent of smokers develop COPD. It is the fourth-highest cause of death in the United States, claiming 120,000 Americans each year.
Often smokers are unaware they have the early symptoms of COPD. The disease progresses slowly, and symptoms often develop gradually, so that by the time COPD is apparent, the disease is already well-established.