For a young mother of two teen-aged sons, living life attached to an oxygen tank is not an ideal situation. For Jo Ellen Kimball, 40, however, this was the life she had grown accustomed to living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a condition that essentially turns the lungs to stone. As Jo Ellen’s physician and Medical Director of Lung Transplantation at Emory Transplant Center, Dr. Clinton Lawrence puts it, “Imagine trying to breathe through lava rock every day of your life.” The five-year survival rate of IPF is less than 20% and as of now, lung transplantation is the only known treatment.
Since September 17th, however, Jo Ellen’s outlook on life and future has changed drastically. It was on this day that she underwent her double lung transplant at Emory University Hospital.
After the procedure, Jo Ellen was able to regain her ability to breathe on her own after only nine days, a remarkable achievement. And after six years of life spent facilitated by an oxygen tank, Jo Ellen Kimball can now return to a normal life and possibly even return to her position as a fourth grade teacher.
As if this positive momentous life change for Jo Ellen wasn’t enough, she was also informed that her procedure resulted in even further celebration– Jo Ellen’s procedure was the 300th lung transplant performed by Emory’s Transplant Program (established in 1993).
Much like the journey Jo Ellen has experienced to free herself from the constraints of IPF, Emory’s lung transplant program has traveled quite a distance in reaching this milestone. The program is not a high-volume transplant program when compared to Emory’s other solid organ transplant programs. In fact, in 2009, 35 lung transplants were performed by the program, its most ever in a single year and a 300% increase from a decade before.
With generous donations and the help of doctors like Clinton Lawrence and Jo Ellen’s surgeon and Surgical Director of Lung Transplantation at Emory Transplant Center, Dr. Seth Force, the lung transplant program continues to grow and gain momentum.
“Emory has the only lung transplant program in the state,” notes Dr. Lawrence. “We provide a necessary and quality service to individuals from all walks of life from Georgia and surrounding states, including Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana.”
After a few weeks of recovery at Emory, Jo Ellen has since returned home to Conyers, GA to rest and recover with her family. We will be sure to keep you updated on her journey.