• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Persistence propels patient through double-lung transplant

April 23, 2017

transplant patient Steve on his bicycle
Steve Shank knows what it's like to face an uphill climb. Despite being legally blind and affected by albinism, he has been an avid bicyclist for years, competing in 100-mile rides on the rolling hills of Iowa. The arduous contests challenged Steve physically and mentally, giving the Iowa City native an ability to endure difficult situations.

Beginning in 2015, that endurance was put to the test — one that tried every ounce of strength Steve had. In the fall of that year, he discovered his lungs were failing due to the same mutated gene that caused his blindness and albinism. His only chance of survival was a double-lung transplant.

No route to lung transplantation is easy. But Steve's journey, which began with shortness of breath and ended at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, intensified early when his lungs stopped working. Unable to oxygenate his own blood, Steve required life-sustaining ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The treatment involves continuously pumping blood through a machine — a sort of artificial lung — to remove carbon dioxide and add oxygen. But the treatment is not without risk. Read the rest of Steve's story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.