Looking for a new lease on life, former Steamboat resident awaits double lung transplant (2024)

Without a double lung transplant, former Steamboat Springs resident Chuck Brood has a 50% chance of living beyond two years, his doctors say.

This week, Brood was excited to learn he was placed on the recipient waiting list, pending final medical insurance approval, for a double lung transplant at UCHealth Transplant Center in Aurora.

Brood has end-stage lung disease following a diagnosis of COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in December 2021. He readily admits his worsening lung disease is due to 40 years of previous heavy smoking. His condition has encouraged several of his friends to stop smoking, and he discourages all teens from vaping.

After a double lung transplant, the median survival rate is six years, according to Dr. Alice Gray, medical director of the lung transplant program at Anschutz Medical Campus, the only lung transplant center in Colorado.

Those extra, healthier years would give Brood the chance to spend quality time with his six grandkids, ages 1 to 12. He also looks forward to being able to walk up hills around his hometown of Buena Vista, ride his motorcycle again, finish rebuilding his Jeep, go fishing with his grandchildren and watch them grow up.

“Now when I try to spend time with my grandkids, I can’t do a whole lot with them tethered to an air hose,” Brood said. “I take a lot of air tanks and hope that I don’t get stuck.”

According to the American Lung Association, a lung transplant is a major surgery with major risks to replace diseased lungs with healthy lungs as a last option for patients who have severe or advanced chronic lung conditions such as COPD, cystic fibrosis and pulmonary fibrosis. The surgery takes 6-8 hours or longer, Gray noted.

Gray said the survival rate of double lung transplant recipients is higher, and the procedure more common than single lung transplants because patients have disease in both lungs. The average wait time for donor lungs for people with Brood’s blood type is 4-6 weeks, she noted, and donated lungs must be the appropriate size match based on patient height.

Always a busy guy who worked in construction and on vehicles, Brood, 56, now fights exhaustion and is on supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day. At home, he can plug in an oxygen concentrator, but away from home his time is limited by one hour per oxygen tank.

On short spurts without oxygen, he becomes exhausted, light-headed, and his nose and lips can turn blue, according to his wife of nine years, Nancy Rudolph Johnson, who grew up in Steamboat. In the last year, Brood has suffered from pneumonia eight times.

Nancy and Chuck were best friends and dated while attending Buena Vista High School, and then lost contact for years. About 10 years ago, they reconnected through Facebook and were soon married.

In Steamboat, Brood drove a dump truck for Duckels Construction, worked as a fabricator for a granite installation company, and drove a city bus one winter.

Brood had tried to stop smoking and had cut back before he was diagnosed with COPD. In his younger life, Brood also spent years employed painting cars, with no more protection than a handkerchief across his mouth.

Officials at UCHealth Transplant Center said 51 lung transplants were performed at the facility during 2023, including 39 double lung transplants. As of May 28, the facility had performed 15 transplants this year, 12 of which were double. Lung transplant patients range from 17 years old to in their 70s, Gray said, and one double transplant patient at the facility has lived 25 years.

Gray said the number of lung transplants performed in the U.S. has increased through the past 10 years from approximately 1,800 to 2,800 per year.

Despite significant advances in the medical management of chronic lung diseases, lung transplantation remains a well-established, life-saving treatment for end-stage respiratory failure not responding to other medical or surgical interventions, according to the National Institutes of Health. Technical advancements such as appropriate donor selection, donor organ procurement action and transport, and intraoperative intricacies of the surgical procedure have boosted success.

For now, Brood continues his pulmonary rehab visits to keep his lungs as healthy as possible. He also lost 20 pounds to prepare for the transplant.

A family friend started a Go Fund Me page titled “Help Chuck get a double lung transplant!” to help with expenses for the expected three-month stay near the hospital post-transplant.

Fundraising friend Shelby Vaughn wrote: “If you know Chuck or Nancy, his wife, you know that they would do anything they can to help someone in need. They have the biggest hearts and have been hit with one health struggle after the next and could really use everyone’s support right now so that Chuck can have a second chance at life. Chuck is a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to so many and truly deserves this amazing opportunity.”

Looking for a new lease on life, former Steamboat resident awaits double lung transplant (2)

Looking for a new lease on life, former Steamboat resident awaits double lung transplant (2024)


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