ALTA LOMA ( — A 57-year-old Alta Loma man was the first person in the United States to receive a “breathing lung” transplant.

Fernando Padilla was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease in which the air sacs of the lungs are replaced by scar tissue, two and a half years ago.

He was later told he only had months to live without a transplant.

Doctors at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, however, had an unusual transplant plan for Padilla.

Surgeons told the beloved husband about an experimental organ-preservation device called the Organ Care System, which keeps the donor lungs functioning and alive with oxygen in a near-physiologic state outside the body during the transport.

Currently, donor lungs are transported inside an icebox, which deteriorates the lungs because they’re not supplied with nutrients.

Four months ago, Padilla decided to undergo the new procedure.

“It had to be done and if it was done in a better way, that’s even better,” said Padilla.

Padilla’s wife, Lupe, said, “I was like, ‘Man, how could that work?’ And it did.”

Doctors said there’s a smaller chance for organ failure with the new technology.

“We are maintaining the donor organ in a normal…near normal physiologic state,” said Dr. Abbas Ardehali, a UCLA cardiologist.

The transplant gave Padilla, who now walks two miles a day, a second chance at life without the oxygen tanks and more time to spend with his family.

“Like everybody says, ‘I’m going to Disneyland.’ And that’s what we did,” said Padilla.

UCLA Medical Center has completed four more “living lung” transplants since Padilla’s surgery.


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