By Melissa Garcia
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A family is coming together this holiday season to ask for help for an Aurora man in dire need of a lung transplant.
“I’m perfectly healthy, for an old guy especially, except my lungs suck,” said Phil who has lived in Aurora since the 1960s.
In 2014, doctors diagnosed the 67-year-old with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The disease, which inflames and scars the lungs, is serious and life threatening. It creates difficulty in breathing, and has no known cause.
“My immune system is essentially rejecting my lungs,” Phil explained to CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.
He spent what could be his last Thanksgiving at the home of his neighbors, Poppy, Reese and their mom Jessica, who has taken Phil into her home and her heart.
“She’s an angel here on earth,” Phil said of his neighbor.
She started a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising money to get Phil to an out-of-state hospital that can perform a transplant to save his life.
UCHealth, the only hospital in the Denver’s region that performs the surgery, has a wait for a lung transplant that takes anywhere from a week to a year and a half, according to a spokesperson. Phil said he was on the long end of that range, and does not have time to wait.
“With a lung transplant, there’s such a narrow window of, you’re either not quite sick enough and then you have that window and you’re too sick. And it’s too late. And we’ve kind of got Phil right in the sweet spot. Where if people can help us now, this guy has got years and years to give back, but it has to be now,” Jessica said.
Even with health insurance, the surgery’s other costs are great.
Phil will need to live somewhere else and pay for a place to stay for six months of recovery, on top of other expenses that he cannot afford.
“It’s heartbreaking in itself. And then it’s more heartbreaking when you know Phil. Because Phil has so much life,” Jessica said.
Phil said he has more to give, as he already supports other IPF sufferers through what he refers to as a nightmare diagnosis.
“I’ve learned enough about this disease and the difficulties, logistics of people falling through the cracks,” he said.
Jessica said in the event that Phil passes away before he is able to get the surgery, the money from the fundraiser will go to help other lung transplant patients.