In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 28, 2017

Transplant Patient Making the Most of Life She Was Never Supposed to Have

By In the Loop

The life-saving single-lung transplant Kim Shobe had at Mayo Clinic in 1992 was only expected to buy her a few more years of life. Twenty-five years later, her new lung continues to defy all medical odds by giving Kim opportunities to do and achieve things she never thought possible.

Conventional wisdom says Kim Shobe should not be alive right now. One of Mayo Clinic's early lung transplant patients, Kim received a single-lung transplant in January 1992, less than two years after Mayo began offering the procedure in Rochester. She was patient No. 7. At the time, the average survival rate for lung transplant patients was only about five years. Kim is clearly above average.

Today, Kim is a happy, healthy, 61-year-old retiree who's celebrating a 25th anniversary of life after transplant. "My doctors have asked me for years what my secret is," Kim tells us. "I always tell them it's because I stay up late at night and eat junk food."

All jokes aside, Kim tells us if there is a secret to her long-term survival, it's that she hasn't allowed herself to "dwell on the negative." Instead, Kim says she's spent the past 25 years living her life in five-year increments — with the start of each new calendar year just one more unexpected gift to be taken full advantage of. "I don't want to sound too virtuous here, but I think it allowed me to not worry about some of the things that I might have otherwise worried about," she says of her original post-transplant prognosis. "It's also made me more apt to go after things in life that I might have otherwise put off if I thought, or knew, that I had more time."

Things like getting her master's degree. Kim had started working on her MBA when she first got sick, but had to put her studies on hold. A year after her transplant, however, Kim was back in school and finishing up the "three or four" classes she had left. "I think most people would have thought, 'Why bother?' But I looked at it as a chance to do one more thing in life that I might not have otherwise gotten a chance to do."

That MBA would also turn out to be Kim's ticket to another unexpected life adventure: a career in international sales that took her all over the world. "It was the kind of job I'd always dreamed of having," she tells us. "It was just one more chance to do something I thought might never be possible."

And while there's also been some bad to go with all of that good over the years, Kim tells us that having a lung transplant has been worth every additional second of life that she's been given as a result. "I think that if it had only been that original five years of additional life, it would have still been worth it, because the change in my health was so miraculous," she tells us. "When I woke up after the transplant, I could take a deep breath again. That alone made everything worthwhile."

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Tags: Lung Transplant, Patient Stories

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