Lung transplant patient home, breathing easier

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NEW GLOUCESTER — George Carman accomplished yet another milestone last week in his amazing recovery after a double lung transplant at New York Presbyterian Hospital in early February.

On Thursday, the 45-year-old New Gloucester firefighter said his home health nurse made her final visit, marking another step forward after his life-saving surgery Feb. 3.

Carman was in declining health from cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease, when he received the double lung transplant in a roughly 10-hour procedure.

He spent 79 days recovering in New York City, 12 of them in the hospital and the rest in an apartment on Murray Hill.

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Carman talked about his journey in the warmth of his living room while his daughter, Annie, a sixth-grade student at Gray-New Gloucester Middle School, listened.

“At times I had my doubts when I was so sick, but I always had a positive attitude through all the waiting,” he said. He plans to be a spokesman for organ donation through Donate Life New England. There are 103,000 people waiting for transplants, and every 12 minutes a new person is added to the list, he said.

New York Presbyterian hospital transplants hearts, lungs, kidneys and livers.

“They do awesome things,” Carman said

Annie came to visit her mother and father three times in New York, and George came home to go to the daughter-father dance with Annie at the middle school.

The family returned to Maine on April 23 by train and were greeted by family and fans in Portland.

His ongoing daily tasks toward recovery require steps to monitor organ rejection, including tracking his blood pressure, pulse, temperature, blood sugar, weight and a pulmonary function meter reading.

“Rejection can occur during the first year following transplant,” he said, so 60 pills that prevent rejection and replace vitamins that the anti-rejection drugs deplete are part of the daily regime.

His diet is strict to ward off possible infection: All meat must be well-cooked, no raw fish, no fresh fruits or vegetables for six months. He said, smiling, he can’t do any gardening or mowing. He can’t use hot tubs or indoor swimming pools and can’t swim in a lake. When he’s in a crowd, he wears a mask.

“I do a lot of walking, that’s very important to keep my lungs healthy,” he said. His routine includes daily 2- to 3-mile walks and on weekends with a friend he makes a nearly 6-mile loop near Sabbathday Lake.

The donor lungs are working at 111 percent capacity instead of the 21 percent lung function of his diseased lungs.

“This is a wonderful gift. All you can do is live to the fullest and be a good role model,” George said.

After at least six months, George said he will write to the family who lost their loved one and thank them for this gift of life.

“I need to give them time to heal after their loss,” he said, adding he hopes to meet them in the future.

George said he plans to return to work at Morrison and Sylvester in Auburn next fall, if all progresses smoothly. His job as parts salesman that he left five years ago is waiting for him.

“It’s awesome they are saving my job,” he said.

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