What If I Was Offered A Former Smoker’s Lungs?

In the early days of my blog, my post, Deeper Questions, had me evaluating how I felt concerning being transplanted with “marginal” lungs that had been rehabilitated.  I saw that someone from one of my transplant support groups had posted this item from my transplant center’s website & it gave me thoughts along similar lines. Something I had not considered before.  How would I feel about receiving lungs from a (former) smoker?

Early on, I may have said no.  Yet, knowing what I do now & how extensive the matching process is I’m not sure I would refuse a smoker’s lungs or even a set of high risk lungs. As long as I was given that information ahead of time to at least weigh & factor into consideration, it might be a calculated risk that I would undertake.

(Keep in mind, smoker’s lungs is a catch-all phrase for any type of smoking whether it be cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping, pipe smoking, or marijuana smoking. Any number of cigarettes over a short timeframe or a long one, or a pack a day consistently for several years, or recreational smoking of any form could all be in the smoking history.)

I agree that no organ as long as it’s functional should go to waste; & while I might have some initial concerns,  if my surgeon really felt this was in my best interest, I would go for it. Or if this was the best offering I could hope for,  I would also go for it.

That answer though I can’t say for sure ahead of time, because I’m not actively waiting yet/listed either. It would also depend on other factors.  Overall, when looking at overall statistics in the past few years, smoker’s lungs are about even to waiting for a set of “pristine lungs” which might take longer to come, so I would give it serious consideration.

In the UK, smoker’s lungs are used in half of all lung transplants.  Results there from two articles published in the Independent & the Daily Mail show that most transplantees do quite well.  This does give me a bit more confidence, since that is a higher percentage than what I could find in the way of published U.S. statistics.

There are risks & of course reports of deaths from transplantees accepting smoker’s lungs so it doesn’t come without a discussion. Yet considering how many transplantees die on the list waiting (on average 22 people per day),  one wonders if it’s worth the gamble not to accept these or other “high risk” or marginal lungs at all.

I’m one to take calculated risks from time-to-time after full disclosure & time to consider.  I know other transplantees that have had lungs with a “smoking” history & have done fine.  So my answer would depend on the information I was given, but I wouldn’t automatically blacklist them.

I think this is also because I did quite well for years with much lesser than average lung function. I also leveraged & maximized what I had until it became impossible for my body to do so by itself. This leads me to believe that I would be inclined to take what was offered, even if they were a little less than “perfect” or “pristine.” We shall see.

I also have trust & belief in my center that they are going to do their best to match me with a great set of workable lungs out of the gate when they make that call to me. It’s probably not realistic to think that everyone is born with or has “perfect” lungs anyway.  Mine certainly have not been but they’ve carried me this far & continue to, even when it has become harder for them to do so.





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