“Thankful to my donor for the gift of life he so unselfishly gave to me.”
By Daniel Kolopajlo
“My name is Daniel Kolopajlo, and I am 56 years old. I was diagnosed with Functional Class 4, idiopathic pulmonary hypertension (PH) on Sept. 1, 2011, exactly one year after moving from West Virginia to Florida. I was given a 2% chance of survival over a six-month period if treatment failed.
“On Sept. 3, 2011, a central line was inserted in my chest wall to administer the PH therapy drug, Veletri. I was also prescribed a slew of other therapies and medications, all meant to help my heart and lungs.
“In December 2013, knowing my future survival would mean a double lung transplant, we began our transition back to the Ohio Valley. First, I was accepted as a patient at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC’s) Comprehensive Lung Center in Pittsburgh, which is located one hour from our Ohio roots and family support. We then sold our home and moved back to Ohio in November 2014.
“In 2017, my infused Veletri therapy was switched to Remodulin. However, as is common with PH, my symptoms continued to progress, and my health and quality of life was declining. In January 2019, my routine evaluation indicated that my pulmonary pressures as well as my cardiac indexes had increased to the point that I was in need of a transplant. Following all the necessary testing and paperwork, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) placed me in the top 10 percentile and listed me on Feb. 27, 2019.
“On April 15, six weeks after being listed, I received the first call for the transplant. After rushing to UPMC and waiting many hours, I was sent home, as the donor lungs were not viable due to pneumonia.
“Three weeks after the initial call came the second call. Again, I rushed to UPMC with high hopes this would be it. However, I was set home more disheartened than the first call, as the donor lungs were heavy contused and compromised.
“The third call came June 3, however, it also came with devastating news that it was another cancellation. During this run we were informed that my heart was rapidly failing. The right side of my heart was grossly enlarged.
“A fourth call for the transplant was received on June 19 and again the donor lungs were not viable.
“Just past midnight, the morning of July 3, 2019, a fifth call was received. I arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m. and at 3 p.m., I was informed that the donor lungs were viable and that the transplant would finally take place. At 3:15 p.m., I was taken into surgery. The surgery lasted 10 hours. At 1:30 a.m., July 4, I gained my freedom from PH.
“I am now in rehab at UPMC. While my PH journey is coming to a close, I am on a new journey that will include organ rejection, being immune-suppressed and all the ramifications that come along with each. Over the course of five weeks, I have experienced a full circle of emotions, the most prevalent being thankful to my donor for the gift of life he so unselfishly gave to me. I will therefore approach my new path the way I approached PH, head on with a burning desire to survive and beat the odds.”