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Sunday, June 23, 2019

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Lung transplant survivor races back to recovery

Lung transplant survivor races back to recovery

HOUMA, La. (AP) — After receiving his second double lung transplant last year, just getting out of a chair took a lot out of Paul Thibodeaux.

His weight fell to 108 pounds and he was on oxygen 24 hours a day with 12-percent lung function.

Not only did the Thibodaux Police narcotics agent make a full recovery and return to duty in April he participated in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America, which were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, last month.

"I've always been athletic," the 35-year-old said. "When Ochsner told me about the Transplant Games, I automatically wanted to do it. They didn't even have to convince me."

The Transplant Games, which began in 1990 and are held every two years, is a multi-sport event produced by the Transplant Life Foundation for people who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries. The competition is open to living donors, organ transplant recipients and bone marrow and tissue transplant recipients.

"They had so many competitions you can do," Thibodeaux said. "I was on the basketball team, volleyball team and did the 4 x 100 relay. Anyone in the state of Louisiana that has had an organ transplant can be on the team."

Nearly every state was represented during the six-day competition, and Team Louisiana included about 60 members. The detective even won a silver medal in the relay race.

"The team did really good," he said. "We got a lot of medals."

It was just a year ago when even walking a few steps presented an enormous challenge for Thibodeaux, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder where the body produces excess mucus, affecting the respiratory and digestive systems.

"Just because they put in new lungs doesn't mean they work perfectly right away," Thibodeaux said. "Just standing up is work. You lose a lot of muscle from the surgery. I was down to 108 pounds and was barely anything. Slowly you start walking a little. Then a little bit further, and a little bit further. Then six weeks down the road I started doing cross-fit workouts without any weights. It was rough at first, but I just had to push through. Eventually I started getting stronger. You keep working until you get to where you want to get. Even now I'm not where I want to get yet."

After months of intense workouts and rehab, Thibodeaux's weight increased to 165 pounds and he returned to full-time duty on April 9. To get ready for the competition in Utah, he intensified his training.

"I already work out a lot in the gym to keep in shape," he said. "I had to brush up on my volleyball skills, but running is just running. As long as you can run you can do a relay."

Thibodeaux said the competition he encountered in Salt Lake City was some of the fiercest he's ever faced.

"That was the roughest basketball game I played in my life," Thibodeaux said. "We beat the first team but then we played the Utah home team and lost in overtime by one point."

Thibodeaux offered words of encouragement for those who are recovering from their own organ transplants: don't give up.

"It's going to be hard but you've got to push through because it will get easier," he said. "Nothing worth achieving is easy."


Information from: The Courier,