Meet Gary and Kayla Shamblin

For almost three years, Gary Shamblin had battled with hypersensitivity pneumonitis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Initially, Gary’s condition meant he could no longer work but, as his wife Kayla says, he was able to maintain quality of life. This changed suddenly in July of 2022. Gary’s disease began to progress rapidly and the impact on his health became more severe. By September, Gary experienced a further worsening of his condition. His ability to breathe was so diminished that his doctors in Charleston, West Virginia told Gary and Kayla that his only hope for survival was a lung transplant. In October of 2022, Gary was transported by ambulance from Charleston to the Cleveland Clinic to begin the evaluation process.

When he arrived in Cleveland, Gary was on 15 liters of oxygen (an extremely high amount). He was told by doctors at the Clinic that most people who had the kind of sudden worsening of their condition that Gary had experienced in September did not survive. After three full days of evaluations, the Shamblins were told Gary had passed all the tests; but over the next few weeks his condition became critical. He was moved to the ICU where he was placed on a ventilator, an ECMO machine (a form of life support that adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the blood), and dialysis. A third ECMO line was subsequently needed to provide further support to Gary’s heart while he waited for the lungs that could save his life.

The wait for transplant is always difficult for the patient and their family. But for Kayla, the anxiety was sharpened by the fact that Gary’s declining health meant there was a chance that her husband could become too sick to remain listed for the lifesaving transplant he needed.

Thankfully, on November 20,2022, Gary received a double lung transplant. But their transplant journey has remained a challenging one. Gary’s recovery has been lengthened by several complications and he is still in one of the most critical ICUs at the hospital. And in December, just a few weeks after Gary’s transplant, Kayla was laid off. In addition to the stress of Gary’s health, Kayla now faced growing financial stressors. Because of how sudden Gary’s need for transplant was, the Shamblins had not had time to fundraise or prepare beforehand. The costs of treatment, remaining far from home for months at a time, and maintaining their COBRA insurance were piling up and doctors told Kayla that her husband’s recovery was likely to continue to be slow.

Being at Transplant House of Cleveland has allowed Kayla to remain close to her husband throughout the wait for transplant and his recovery. Her presence at his bedside every day is an essential part of his continued recovery.

“I’m his strongest advocate and his voice especially since he is so limited in communicating,” Kayla says.

In addition to allowing her to remain close by and providing a much more affordable housing option than a hotel, Transplant House has also given her a place to stay that feels comfortable, inviting, and supportive.

“I could not imagine this transplant journey without Transplant House,” Kayla says. “There are so many great things about it, but the best parts are the community and the staff. Being surrounded by people who are going through the same experience and understand the transplant process is invaluable.”

Kayla is embraced outside of Gary’s room by Transplant House staff during a visit to the ICU.

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