He did not smoke, yet he needed a lung transplant.
He was not a heavy drinker, yet he needed a liver transplant.
Even if they could locate a liver/lung match, at 63 years old he would be considered a high-risk candidate for a dual transplant.
And it was during the height of the pandemic.
It was a matter of life or death for Larry Nesler, who was diagnosed with idiopathic interstitial lung disease and cirrhosis of the liver, both advanced conditions that necessitated organ transplants if he were to survive.
“These diagnoses were a real surprise. I was in shock. I told myself, ‘This can't be.’ I had a very bad hand dealt to me,” Mr. Nesler said, reflecting back on the idiopathic, meaning unknown, origin of his conditions. His lung capacity was worsening fast and he was unable to walk across a room without having to rest.
He was 63 years old, and his life depended on acceptance into an organ transplant program. The Booneville, Mississippi businessman was denied by another transplant center which rejected him for fear he would not survive the major surgery.
Once he got approval from the transplant team at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, Mr. Nesler rented an apartment down the street from the hospital and was in constant contact with his medical team including Drs. Gabriel Loor, Puneet Singh Garcha, and John Goss.
That was in July 2020 and three months later, at 5:30 a.m., the phone rang. It was January Sintuphant, his transplant coordinator, calling to say they found a lung and a liver that matched.
“When I got that call, it felt like I had gotten 20cc's of adrenaline. The things you contemplate at that time are very sobering. I was in the hands of God and a few people that I really trusted,” he said.
Mr. Nesler was admitted into the hospital just five hours later. After a 10-and-a-half-hour surgery, he was on the road to recovery with a new lease on life.
“Mr. Nesler’s case was complicated since he was older than 50 years of age and in need of a dual organ transplant. There is not a lot of experience with this combination,” said Gabriel Loor, MD, surgical director of the lung transplant program at Baylor St. Luke’s. “We drew upon our collective experience with surgery in high-risk scenarios to ensure the safest outcomes.”
His first conscious memory is that of seeing his son who exclaimed, “You made it Dad, you're alive!”
“When he showed me an iPhone video of my granddaughter, that's when I knew I was alive,” he recalled.
He remained in the hospital for 21 days-three weeks of constant observation and encouragement from his Baylor St. Luke’s medical team.
“I had people who really cared about me. This group, from the doctors to the nurses to the assistants to the fellows, was just remarkable. I'm not on the face of this earth without that group,” he insisted.
Mr. Nesler moved back to Mississippi and made a full recovery where he is loving life, spending time with his family and young grandchildren.
“It is so good to be alive, I am overjoyed. That is the gift these guys gave me,” he said.