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York County man celebrates first anniversary of double lung transplant

In 2019, Robert Cooper was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, it wasn't until two years later when he would be in dire need of a double lung transplant.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — "It saved my life, it really did," said Robert Cooper, a lung transplant recipient in York County.

Robert Cooper was emotional when he reflected on the day that changed his life forever.

"I think it was probably one of the most trying and scary times of our lives," said Jodi Cooper, his daughter.

In December 2018, Cooper was diagnosed with COPD. It wasn't until a year later when the doctors determined it was pulmonary fibrosis.  

A lung disease that killed both his father and grandfather.

"I don't know that I really realized the seriousness, I know a lot of people around me did," Cooper said.

"He had a fairly aggressive course of this disease. Pulmonary fibrosis is a scaring tissue of the lung that can be caused by a number of things," said Dr. Robert Reed, a Pulmonologist with the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Cooper says his symptoms worsened last year when he could only walk for about 15 minutes before losing his breath.

"In March of last year, I was having some issues at work, I came into work and I had to leave after like four hours and that's when it started," he said.

Cooper went to the University of Maryland Medical Center where he was put on high oxygen flow and placed on the transplant waiting list.

"The home units couldn't keep up with the demand that my body needed. It could only do about 7% maybe 10%, at one point I needed almost 40% oxygen," he explained.

Right when the symptoms reached their peak, he received a call from UMMC that two lungs from a deceased donor in Kentucky were available for transplant.

"On the scale of complexity and dangers this is probably on the higher end, one of the more difficult transplant and one of the more trickier organs to transplant," said Dr. Alexander Krupnick, a Lung Transplant Surgeon with UMMC.

Cooper says the transplant happened on the day before he would have been placed on a heart-lung machine called ECMO. This would have replaced his heart and lung function.

Add that to a rare blood type and he calls this a miracle.

"I have a second chance that's the way I look at it," he said.

However, Cooper's recovery did not come without a bump in the road.

"The day that I was supposed to be discharged I quit breathing because there was a mucus plug that blocked my windpipe. They removed that and I got out of bed the next day and it was a difference between night a day," Cooper explained.

On the first anniversary of his double lung transplant, Cooper remains thankful and humble.

He's also glad to be back at Lowe's working as their Department Supervisor.

"I have to actually control myself because I think I can do more than what I should be doing, I feel that good. I'm doing stuff now that I couldn't do a year ago," he said.

"It's really a miracle and I thank God everyday that we get to have him here with us," said Jodi Cooper.

In honor of National Donate Life Month, Cooper is encouraging you to become a donor to save a life.

"If you have the opportunity, please do it. Please," he urged.

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