Wednesday 26 July 2017

'The doctors had never seen it before' - How this young Irishman defied the odds with double-lung transplant

Luke Doherty during his hospital stay for his collapsed lung in February.
Luke Doherty during his hospital stay for his collapsed lung in February.
Luke Doherty (L) three to four weeks post-transplant at his sister's wedding.
One month before the transplant when Luke was exercising on one lung.
Amy Mulvaney

Amy Mulvaney

Luke Doherty (25) underwent a double lung transplant in August, yet within 24 hours he was able to stand up and within one month his lungs were "at the level of a normal person."

Luke, from Dundrum, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at a couple of weeks old, but didn't suffer any major health problems until two years ago.

"I grew up fairly healthy. I was on the school football team and local team. I had trials for Shelbourne Football Club when I was 16," he told Independent.ie. 

"I didn’t get that sick for a good while. Each day I was doing physiotherapy, taking medication and using my nebulizer. Apart from that there were no problems." 

One month before the transplant when Luke was exercising on one lung.
One month before the transplant when Luke was exercising on one lung.

Luke pursued his career in fitness by studying personal training for three years in Sallynoggin and becoming a qualified Pilates instructor.

"I had just gotten into the fitness industry when my lungs got worse," he said.

"For the next one or two years I was in and out of hospital and was on a high dose of steroids."

In January this year one of Luke's lungs collapsed yet, because of his fitness level, he could continue training.

"I was on oxygen when I was doing cardio and could do weights without it. The doctors had never seen that before."

"Even when I was on oxygen I did Pilates in my bed and I continued to study fitness. Hopefully I’ll be getting my Bachelor of Science degree in Strength and Conditioning soon. I completed my Pilates instructor training while I was barely able to breathe." 

On August 23, Luke received a phone call with the life-changing news that a lung transplant was available for him, and the next day he was brought to surgery.

"Up to the day I was called I was doing two workouts a day so I was quite strong. There’s usually a trial before you have a transplant but I had no trial and somehow got the first call. I was very lucky.

Luke Doherty (L) three to four weeks post-transplant at his sister's wedding.
Luke Doherty (L) three to four weeks post-transplant at his sister's wedding.

"I thought I’d react when I heard I was getting a transplant, but I was fine. I wasn’t nervous. I’m never one to worry. When it happens, deal with it," he said.

"Within 24 hours of the transplant I was able to stand up. After two and a half weeks I got out of hospital and after one month my lungs were at the level of normal peoples’ lungs."

Less than two months after the surgery, Luke has gone from "strength to strength" and is working on building his fitness back up.

"Now I’m slowly increasing my exercise. Usually your body has to catch up with your lungs, but my lungs have to catch up to my body. Within one month I could have gone for a job, but obviously I had to recover."

"The first three months are critical. I can’t drive, which is killing me. I can’t do resistance training, but I know how to get results without weights. I’m kind of getting bored to be honest, relaxing isn’t my style."

With the transplant behind him, Luke is now focusing on the future and is working on setting up his own business, as well as raising awareness about cystic fibrosis and organ donation.

"Right now I’m working on setting up my own business. I want to go back to personal training and get into a gym and set up a website for it. I’m feeling very well but I’m so restricted. I need to keep my mind busy or I’ll go crazy!

"Cystic fibrosis doesn’t get a huge look in in Ireland, it’s crazy it’s still so quiet. I want to raise awareness and show how it changes peoples’ lives.

"I honestly believe that my quick recovery had all been down to exercise. People say 'Oh, I don’t have the time to exercise,' but I had one lung and I was training. It’s all about priorities."

Visit Luke's Facebook page Transplant2Trainer here.

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