NEW GLOUCESTER — George Carman’s cell phone is on day and night. The 44-year-old firefighter is waiting for a critical call that will launch him toward a life-saving operation.

Carman said Thursday that he was notified Sept. 3 by the United Network of Organ Sharing and his insurance company of his eligibility to immediately receive a double lung transplant.

“During my hospital stay recently, my lung function had dropped to 25 percent,” he said, standing in the fire station. He said he could only walk 82 feet in six minutes at a recent medical appointment in New York City.

He was presented to the transplant team last Friday, he said.

“There may be a couple of dry runs to New York City until a compatible cadaver pair of lungs are acceptable,” Carman said. “I am healthy, otherwise. Reality finally hit. I won’t say this won’t be complicated.”

Since 2004, a capital campaign called New Lungs for George has been under way by family, friends and New Gloucester Fire and Rescue to help the Carman family raise more than $400,000 beyond the $1 million that insurance pays for the surgery. His recovery requires him to stay in an apartment in New York City for at least six months while his immune system builds up.

So far, $224,952 has been raised through New Lungs for George. Additional fundraising efforts are in the works.

New Lungs for George is hosting a co-ed softball tournament Oct. 2 on Randall Road in Lewiston. Teams can sign up and pay the $300 entry fee by calling 577-2593 or 926-6160 and leave a message.

A statewide campaign called GIVE 5 asks for a $5 donation from fire departments across Maine to help reach the $400,000 goal.

New Gloucester firefighter and friend Scott Doyle has led that campaign since 2004.

“We hope the GIVE 5 campaign will go nationwide,” Doyle said. “We all wish George the best.”

Carman was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease affecting roughly 30,000 children and adults in the United States. The disease is caused by a defective gene, which causes the body to produce abnormally thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections. The thick secretions also obstruct the pancreas, preventing digestive enzymes from reaching the intestines to help break down and absorb food.

“You are amazing,” Rescue Chief Mary Rich told Carman at the station Thursday. “You hide what you have very well.”

“George never complains and … he acts like a normal person,” she said.

Rescue worker Mary Whitney said, “George has a dream to go into a burning building.”

“I can’t wait to get back to life as usual,” Carman said.

Contributions can be made to “New Lungs for George” and mailed to Katahdin Federal Credit Union, c/o Debbie Girsa, 1000 Central St., Millinockett, ME 04462.

For a tax-deductible contribution, send a check to National Transplant Assistance Fund, 150 North Radnor-Chester Road, Suite F-120, Radnor, PA 19087. Write: “In honor of George Carman” on the memo line.

For information, e-mail [email protected]

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