Two Lives Saved
by One Donor Organ

Clyde Conn and Joe Gammalo
Second Wind St. Louis
August, 2009

Clyde Conn’s Journey

My name is Clyde Conn, and I am a lung transplant recipient.

I was suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and went to Cleveland Clinic in 2007 to see if I qualified for a clinical trial of medication for this disease. A lung biopsy was performed as part of the testing process. The biopsy results indicated I needed to be placed on an oxygen concentrator set at 13 liters. After several more rounds of testing I was added to the transplant waiting list on December 14, 2007. A few weeks later my hometown pulmonary doctor suggested to my wife, Judy, that I should be placed in Hospice care; which I refused to do.

I received my transplant of one lung on August 1, 2008. A couple of days later I was breathing on my own, and no longer needed oxygen. Several complications developed after transplantation including a blood clot, internal bleeding, diabetes and a staph infection. Fortunately these have all gone away. I have fully recovered, and I am back at work. I spend a half hour each day on the treadmill—not bad for a 70 year old.

Joe Gammalo’s Journey

My name is Joe Gammalo, and I am a lung transplant recipient.

I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. This disease progressed over the years, and was not caused from smoking. Medical researchers have not done enough conclusive studies to determine what causes this disease. My life with pulmonary fibrosis consisted of coughing 3000 or more times a day and wearing a portable oxygen tank. I could not walk 100 feet without being out of breath. I needed a wheel chair to get around.

My doctor told me the only solution for this disease is a lung transplant. There was no other way to relieve my symptoms. I began the transplant qualification process at Cleveland Clinic in December 2007. It took about 5 months of preliminary steps to get on a waiting list for a donor lung. After completing all the steps, and being in good shape otherwise my doctor put me on the waiting list in May of 2008.

I will never forget the night of July 31, 2008. I got the call telling me they thought they had a lung for me. I woke my wife, Kathy, and headed for the Clinic. My surgery was the next day, and all went pretty well.

It is hard to believe I have had the donor lung for a year. I am on many medications, but, it is a small price to pay for my life. I thank God for the generous people who list themselves as organ donors.

Clyde and Joe’s Lives Intersect

Joe’s wife and daughter were discussing his surgery in ICU where he was recovering. Clyde was in the adjacent ICU bed, and his wife overheard the conversation. She peeked through the curtain, and said she thought her husband received the right lung, and Joe received the left lung from the same donor. What a surprise!

Clyde and Judy Conn and Joe and Kathy Gammalo kept in contact during the hospital stay. Before going home they exchanged telephone numbers and email addresses. This year on August 1st they celebrated together their one-year anniversary. They had a joyous time.

Clyde and Joe are grateful to their donor; donor family; the Clinic’s staff and Dr. Marie Budev, Medical Director of the Cleveland Clinic. They thank God for the gift of life and for all the generous people who sign up to be an organ donor. They have special praise for their wives who supported them through their journey.