New lung gives man a new lease on life
Published: Thursday, January 5, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2006 at 11:46 p.m.
He may be 67 years old, but Jack Bloss says he has a new life ahead of him thanks to his recent lung transplant at Shands at the University of Florida.
The oldest person to receive a new lung at the Gainesville hospital started the New Year breathing naturally for the first time in more than a decade, and on Wednesday he was able to go home.
Still marveling at the feeling of breathing again, Bloss said, "I've got to get used to it now, figure out what I can do that I couldn't before. It's an opportunity for me."
Other doctors across the country told the emphysema patient he was too old for the surgery he needed. Believing he would spend the rest of his life hooked to an oxygen tank, Bloss and his wife, Judy, moved from Frostproof to Alachua because he found it easier to breathe in the area.
They didn't know about Shands' Lung Transplant Program until three years later, when a real estate agent showing a house next door saw Jack Bloss outside his home with his oxygen tank. A former Shands employee, Vlaja Telfer recommended the program. Bloss went to the center and was placed almost immediately on the hospital's list for a transplant.
After a six-month wait, Bloss was taken into an operating room under the direction of doctors Maher Baz and Olufemi Akindipe at 2 a.m. Dec. 20. He emerged a success.
"A month ago, I couldn't even talk," Bloss said. "People would say, 'I know how you feel.' But they have no idea what it's like to not be able to breathe."
Doctors haven't determined why he had emphysema. Bloss was a smoker until the 1970s, and he also worked with heavy equipment and welded during his career. Each may have been a factor.
Before his surgery, Bloss couldn't walk or even bend over, and he was stricken twice with pneumonia over the past three years.
He said doctors at North Florida Regional Medical Center told him he could die the next time he got sick, so he restricted himself to traveling only to the hospital for two years.
During his wait for a new lung, which had to be the right blood type and size, Bloss exercised - despite his poor health - to keep his body in shape. He'll continue a daily walking regimen now that he has his new lung. And the new lung will require powerful anti-rejection drugs he'll take the rest of his life.
Before the surgery, Bloss was named a "backup" for transplants three times, which meant he had to drop everything and go to the hospital in case a donation didn't work for a primary recipient. Once, he was called in the middle of the night. Another time, he was woken up by a 5 a.m. call. The third time, he was actually in the hospital exercising, but his wife was miles away shopping in Ocala.
When a nurse called to tell her the news, Judy Bloss said, "Tell Jack I'm turning the car around and coming back!"
Each time, Jack Bloss had to be prepped as if he were going to get the surgery, and then he waited. But each time he was sent home.
"When we got the word it wouldn't be his, we actually felt relieved because we knew someone else got it," said Judy Bloss. Finally, on Dec. 20, Jack Bloss was named a primary recipient.
When the couple got the call late on Dec. 19, the Blosses were washing dishes from a dinner party they hosted. Judy Bloss saw her husband writing quickly on a notepad, and she knew it was time. She called their two daughters in South Florida, but neither could make it to the hospital. So instead, she called two friends, both in their 70s, who stayed up with her through the night.
Now that he's healthy again, Jack Bloss said, "I haven't even thought of what I'm gonna do. I'm happy just sittin' here breathing."
But Bloss' 8-year-old grandson, Jeremy Szozda, already has an idea: he wants to play ball with the man he's never seen without an oxygen tank.
When he found out his grandfather would get a lung transplant, the little boy said, "Wow, grandpa will be young again," Judy Bloss recalled.
The wife was beaming as she sat with her husband.
"The biggest thing to me is that somebody out there, even in their darkest moment, was thinking of somebody else," she said, referring to the organ donor.
Bloss' wife said she's seen Shands' commercials calling the hospital's work "a science of hope," and for her, it came true.
"For 10 years, we didn't have any hope," she said. "This was the most wonderful, wonderful gift someone could give."
Tiffany Pakkala can be reached at (352) 338-3111 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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