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June 18, 2013

Making the most of a second chance: Lung-transplant recipient reaches 6-year milestone; advocates for organ donation


David Keller will never forget the early Father’s Day gift he received in 2007. It wasn’t a necktie or a monogrammed shirt, but the gift of life.  

On June 2, 2007, Keller, a Floyds Knobs resident, received a double lung transplant at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. And while he was only given five years to live at the time — a deadline he only snickers at now — he continues to live each day to the fullest.

“There are no money-back guarantees [with the transplant surgery],” Keller said with a laugh. “I am doing great. I have got to enjoy six more Father’s Days since the transplant. That is better than winning the lottery.”

Keller, 66, has been slowed recently by an ankle injury he received while playing basketball. He also deals with diabetes and a kidney ailment. But overall, Keller said he feels great. He takes eight pills a day, mainly anti-rejection medicine, which is down from the 20 pills he took daily following his transplant. 

Keller is now on a mission — to spread the word about the importance of donating organs. He said statistics prove one person can save eight lives by donating organs. He said after reading recently about a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl being denied adult lungs because of a state law that said she is too young, he decided it was time to once again share his passion on the subject. The girl finally received her transplant last week.

“Why shouldn’t somebody be given a second chance?” he asked. “It’s so important that people donate life. That little girl couldn’t get lungs for whatever reason; that is just ridiculous.”

Keller developed pulmonary fibrosis after working in a factory for 32 years. The disease involves scarring of the lungs. Over time, the air sacs of the lungs become replaced by fibrotic tissue. When the scar forms, the tissue becomes thicker, causing an irreversible loss of the tissue’s ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream.

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