Meet Doug and Susan Smith

Transplant House was a home away from home. Everyone I’ve talked to, before arriving and while here, have been so welcoming and kind! ~Susan Smith

On June 21, 2013, Doug received a lung transplant that saved his life. The otherwise healthy 42-year-old had been diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and spent over a year traveling for medical testing and appointments with his fiancé, Sue.

Prior to his transplant, Doug was hospitalized most of the time and experienced many stressful ups and downs. In the awe-inspiring time of post-transplant recovery, Doug and Sue felt an awareness of the loss of his organ donor without knowing much about her at the time. They also found joy, as they experienced a rooftop wedding while still in the hospital, organized by the Cleveland Clinic “J82” unit staff.

It was shattering to them that in late 2020, Doug was diagnosed with COVID-19 and pneumonia. Attempts to treat him at their hometown hospital in Zanesville were insufficient and he was taken by ambulance to the Cleveland Clinic. Doug was very, very sick and spent weeks in the ICU. When Dr. Budev at the Cleveland Clinic called Sue to let her know that Doug would need another double lung transplant, she felt as though her heart hit the floor. He had always said he could never go through that again, and now she needed to help him decide if he would. Doug was on a ventilator, but understood what was happening – his answer was yes. Doug’s will to live was strong, despite the uncertainty of him surviving another transplant. Facing life and death, Doug and Sue relied on their faith in both God and the transplant medical team. Doug was determined to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Doug’s second transplant happened thanks to the decision of an organ donor.  Recovery introduced many challenges for Doug once again, particularly with the visitor restraint at the hospital at the time. Among other things, COVID-19 had damaged his kidneys and he was on dialysis three days a week. Nothing has been easy, but Doug is the first COVID transplant patient at the Cleveland Clinic to have survived a double lung transplant.

Doug and Sue spent two weeks at Transplant House after Doug was released from the hospital. They were grateful to be close to the hospital for Doug’s dialysis and appreciated having a place to call home. In a clean apartment full of every-day needs and a welcoming staff, they felt safe during their time here. Their advice to anyone on the transplant journey is to know that every situation is so different and to rely on loved ones to help shoulder some of the burden. They are grateful to all organ donors – and Sue is proud to be listed herself.

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