Proving Age is Relative
Kenneth Wyatt just celebrated his 80th birthday on June 4. What makes this milestone even more special is knowing he underwent a lung transplant on
Jan. 10, 2019, at the age of 79.
The staff at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center held a surprise party for Wyatt and hope to have more of these celebrations in the future.
“People should not see age as a deterrent to seeking an organ transplant,” says Mark Rolfe, M.D., co-medical director of lung transplantation and advanced pulmonary disease management at the INTEGRIS Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute in Oklahoma City. “We look at physiologic age, not chronologic age. The old way of thinking was you can only transplant people 65 and younger, but there’s a lot of 75-year-olds who are otherwise healthy and still young at heart.”
About a year and a half ago, Wyatt suddenly started to experience shortness of breath. “It came on really quickly,” remembers Wyatt. “I just couldn’t get enough air. I felt claustrophobic, like I constantly needed more oxygen.”
He was diagnosed at another facility with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and was told his condition was terminal and he was simply too old for a transplant. Thankfully, Wyatt persisted and found another physician who immediately referred him to the INTEGRIS Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute.
“I was anxious to meet Mr. Wyatt,” says Alan Betensley, M.D., co-medical director of lung transplantation and advanced pulmonary disease management at INTEGRIS Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute. “We ran some tests and concluded he was healthy despite his pulmonary fibrosis, so we felt he would be an ideal candidate for transplant, regardless of his age.”
Wyatt was placed on the lung transplant list Nov. 15, 2018. “I hear some people wait years for a transplant, so I was surprised to get ‘the call’ less than two months later,” admits Wyatt. “I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit and everyone told me I did great. I was out of the hospital within a week.
“Kenneth did remarkably well through the entire process. His oxygen level is back up to 98 percent and he is currently undergoing rehabilitation to regain his strength and endurance,” Betensley says. “I have no doubt he will make a full recovery. He is proof positive that age is relative.”
Wyatt says the experience has given him a new outlook on life and a brand-new purpose for living. “The way I figure it, is God gave me this condition for a reason. And maybe that reason is to help raise the age limit for transplant consideration. INTEGRIS took a chance on me when most other institutions wouldn’t, and I will be forever grateful for that.”
“I could still have 20 years ahead of me,” Wyatt predicts. “My mom is still living at 104 and my grand-dad lived to be 101 … so there’s a lot of life left in me.”