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Northglenn 26-year-old lung transplant recipient is on the road to recovery

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Posted at 4:45 PM, Apr 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-28 19:35:59-04

NORTHGLENN, Colo. — April is Donate Life Month and throughout the United States, more than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. In Colorado, 26-year-old Austin Yang, who recently received a double lung transplant, is on the road to recovery.

“Right as I was about to reach the age of 1, I had an infection called the adenovirus. It was bad enough that it destroyed 40% of my lungs and required me to have a tracheotomy, supplemental oxygen support, and ventilator for breathing support," Yang said.

Yang said for 25 years, that’s how he survived.

“But it was around summer of last year I noticed I was breathing with more effort. I was more exhausted, fatigued. And then around September, I was bedridden and on my ventilator pretty much 24/7. And I was going in and out of the hospital for months on end,” Yang said.

He said his doctor, Dr. Alice Gray, associate professor of medicine and medical director of the lung transplant program at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, told Yang he would be placed on ECMO, a form of life support that gets oxygen to the body without help from the lungs.

He was also placed on the lung transplant list.

“The donors for lung transplants have to be an appropriate match based on blood type, as well as body and chest size. And so Austin is on the shorter side of most adults in the United States. So, it took a long time, even though he was so sick, and he had top priority in order to get organ offers. It took us about a month from when we listed him in order to find suitable lungs,” Gray said.

Gray said they were able to save Yang's life thanks to a donor.

“So, it's important for people to be aware that there are a lot of people out there who are in need of life-saving organ transplants, and that when people are going to renew their driver's license that they consider signing up to be an organ donor,” Gray said.

Yang said he doesn’t know much about his donor, but he’s thankful for them.

“I'm still processing they're passing and their kindness… I'm very grateful for their donation,” Yang said.

Yang said as he breathes on his own for the first time in 25 years, every breath feels amazing.

“When I was actually started breathing on my own, I think the third day of surgery, the air was so much more refined, clean,” Yang said. “I noticed I wasn't wheezing or wasn't straining. It felt so natural that it was foreign to me even to this day. It’s like breathing is so normal now. I’ve never felt this way before.”

Yang said now he’s focused on his continued recovery and is looking forward to his future.

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