The Primal Transplant: A Story of Living with New Lungs, a New Lifestyle, and Swinging Kettlebells

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

real_life_stories_stories-1-2Hello, my name is John and I have been following The Primal Blueprint since May 5th, 2014. When I started I weighed 251 lbs with a BMI of 33.2. I was officially obese.

I also had a disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). My lungs were reacting to some past damage and had gone into overdrive creating scar tissue. Basically, they were turning into raisins. Outside of a lung transplant, there is no real treatment for this disease. There are a couple drugs that have recently been approved by the FDA that do help some people slow the progress of the disease, and more in the clinical trial pipeline that look even more promising.


I needed to lose weight. I needed to lose weight so my body didn’t waste oxygen feeding fat. I also needed to lose weight so I could be considered for a lung transplant. There are not many lungs available for transplant, and ability to survive the procedure is one of the things that transplant teams look at when accessing potential candidates.

My lung capacity was less than 50% of normal. My lung’s ability to transfer oxygen to my blood was also less than 50% of normal. So basically with each breath I took, I was only getting somewhere around 25% of the oxygen of normal lungs.

80EDD6E8FBEE4262932BEBB0FB22D9EESo I started with The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation, and due to the IPF, I had to make some modifications to the exercise portion of the plan. I was on supplemental oxygen and I used up to 8 liters per minute on continuous flow for moderate exercise. Exercise exertion was limited by my blood oxygen saturation. It is important to keep oxygen saturation greater than 90% to help prevent organ damage and other complications.

Why did I choose The Primal Blueprint? I had a couple of reasons really. I already know that my body does not like sugar. Sugary foods made me cough and short of breath. Carbs have helped make me fat. Makes sense to cut out those two foods.

Another reason is that I know a man, Bill Vick, who has IPF and ran a 5K. Bill introduced me to The Primal Blueprint via an IPF forum. Bill and I share a doctor and I can verify that his story is real. Bill gave me some hope that I could improve my quality of life, and maybe even slow the progression of the disease via diet and exercise.

If you are interested, you can read my 21 Day (and beyond) Total Body Transformation journal here.

By October I had lowered my BMI to 28, the maximum BMI to be considered for a lung transplant at UT Southwestern in Dallas. During the transplant evaluation they found that outside of my lungs, I was very healthy. I passed the evaluation and was placed on the transplant list in November. I continued to lose weight, exercise as I could, and try to keep as healthy as possible.

On December 31st I was called into the hospital, and early January 1st, I received a bilateral lung transplant. The procedure went very well and my recovery was amazingly quick. I was released from the hospital after only nine days. That is exceptionally quick. Most lung transplant stays are at least twice that. I credit following the PB to my quick recovery. My core strength was good for the condition the rest of my body was in. I had worked hard to build a good gut bug colony, and I think they really helped me out there. I had also lost more weight, so it was easier for me to get out of bed and do physical therapy quickly.

I have had some issues. I came home on a feeding tube because of some swallowing issues following the procedure. That was resolved quickly. I also had an acute rejection issue that sent me back to the hospital for a week. The transplant team did an awesome job of resolving that issue.

I am no longer on oxygen and my blood oxygen saturation is normal. My new lungs are amazing. My lung capacity is over 80% of what would be expected for a healthy person of my age and size, and they work perfectly. I think of my donor, and their family every day. I cannot put into words just how much I appreciate the gift that they have given me.

Prior to the transplant, following the PB really helped reduce the symptoms of the IPF. Cutting out all refined sugars and grains got rid of my IPF cough. The cough can be debilitating for many IPF patients, and mine went away. I also had some skin sores that would not go away until I started following the PB. Within a couple of weeks they were gone. My acne also went away. Add to these successes my weight loss and increased energy levels, it was easy to stay on plan.

37A425DD95854ECCAC81C0D5851050F1When I started last May I weight 251 lbs. I wore XXL shirts and size 42 pants. Today I weigh 161 to 164 lbs depending on the day. I wear L shirts and very comfortable size 33 pants. I think phase one, weight loss, has been completed successfully.

Now for phase 2. The disease and the transplant had left me very weak. I have been working hard to regain strength and endurance. I am currently doing a 30 day walking challenge to get to 10k steps/day. I am at 8k/day. I can walk over 3 miles at a time now, one heck of an improvement over barely being able to make it from the couch to my bed. My phase 2 goal is to get back into shape, build my endurance, and… look good nekkid.

I use walking and exercise bands to improve my fitness. The transplant team just approved me to start working on push-ups, but I have to work from the kitchen counter and work my way up to the floor slowly. Pull ups are still a no. The transplant procedure involved cutting me from arm pit to arm pit and splitting my chest open like a clam shell. The sternum takes a long time to heal completely. Once I do, I am going to master the Primal Essential Movements.

My number one goal, which was suggested to me by a forum friend, Narrowminded, is to do a pull-up to my transplant scar. That’s going to take awhile, but it is a serious goal. That’ll be one heck of a success post! 🙂

John, April 2015

Update: April 2016

Do I have any updates? I have many ????

First, I have achieved a pull up. I am still working on doing a pull-up to my transplant scar.

I’ve mastered a couple of the Primal Essential Movements: Planks and Squats. I can also now walk from here to there, no matter how far away there is.

My transplant team is very, very happy with my progress. I am exceeding all expectations. My lung function is in the very top percentile, even for people with healthy lungs. My transplant scar is disappearing and following The Primal Blueprint is going a long way towards counteracting the negative side effects of my anti-rejection medications.

My fitness goal right now is to conquer the simple portion of Pavel’s Kettlebell: Simple & Sinister program. I will accomplish that goal by my birthday this year.

By following the PB, I have easily been able to keep the weight I have lost off, and get into much better shape. I’m probably in the best shape in 30 years or so.

PS: April is “National Donate Life Month,” and as part of their efforts to raise awareness and encourage people to register as organ donors, the organization PatientsLikeMe interviewed yours truly.

TAGS:  guest post

About the Author

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

77 thoughts on “The Primal Transplant: A Story of Living with New Lungs, a New Lifestyle, and Swinging Kettlebells”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. This is maybe the most inspiring success story of all! Congratulations on all you’ve achieved and here’s to continued good health in your future!

  2. You rock!! Love your attitude!
    (I have “organ donor” on my driver’s license.)

    1. Thanks, and it is awesome that you have let folks know that you are willing to donate your organs.

  3. Wow, thank you for this great story. As a Physician Assistant who has a couple patients on various transplant lists this is encouraging. Though I tell them about the Primal lifestyle, sharing a story like this may be the small thing needed to get them over the edge. Congratulations John!

    1. Thank you Mike. You know… the PA’s on my medical team are all pretty awesome. I really appreciate you guys.

  4. I find all MDA success stories super inspirational, but THIS ONE. This is phenomenal. Go, John!

  5. Wow! Keep it up!
    And please everyone make sure that you are an organ donor 🙂

  6. excellent stuff man 🙂 i have been an donor license holder for many years , funny fact about this is that in the netherlands a bill was passed that anyone above a certain age was automaticly made donor unless you objected with a certain form that you had to fill out. we gained a couple of million people as possible donors in just one day 🙂

    1. Thanks Ender, I did’t know that about the Netherlands. Have there been any published studies of pre and post law average wait list times and mortality rates while on the list?

  7. What an incredible story John! Thank you for sharing your inspiring journey to health

  8. “Inspirational” is an overused word, but nothing else fits. The whole world improves when people like you are in it, John! Thank you!

  9. What a truly amazing story! None of us have any valid excuses….not when you’ve accomplished so much in so little time against such obstacles. Congratulations!

  10. Wow, John, your story gave me the chills. This is so inspiring! A true success story on so many levels. Thanks for brightening my Friday!!

  11. What an amazing story John – thank you for the wonderful inspiration!

  12. John, I have been one of your admirers since when you were waiting for the call to receive your transplant. I’m a frequent reader of your journal. Therefore, I am familiar with your awesome story. Despite that, reading it here brought back my appreciation and admiration of your awesome courage and success. Whatastory!

  13. Your story is so inspirational. Keep swinging (those kettlebells). 😉

  14. awesome! you got real balls man, like a rhino, only bigger 🙂

  15. Great story! So wonderful that you were able to improve so much. I’m beyond thrilled for you!!

  16. Your outlook for the future must have improved considerably! What an inspiring story – Thank you for sharing. These Friday stories are a weekly dose of motivation. Your courage and ability to just keep moving forward in the face of so many obstacles attests to the strength of the human spirit, and today, we celebrate the strength of your spirit in particular!

  17. Wow! You look like a completely different person in the after photo. I had to compare the tattoos to be sure! I so admire your optimism and can-do attitude that got you started with the PB. If only more people realized how much power they have to affect their own health. You’re a walking ad for it!

  18. Incredible indeed! Sharing your story will inspire countless others. Thank you!

  19. What an inspirational story! The power of giving our bodies the right food is amazing.

  20. This is wonderful and you have made such good use of this information that Mark shares with everybody. I’m thrilled for you!

  21. John if I had one-half the courage and attitude you have I’d be twice the man I am today.

  22. Wow John, what an awesome story. I live with a kidney transplant recipient who is in wonderful health. Fortunately he hasn’t ever had a weight issue, so hasn’t faced the journey you have taken. Well done you, and I agree that this is a story to be shared with others who have chronic illness requiring transplant. There are many who can’t get on those waiting lists because of their weight, but I bet many also would say “how can I lose weight & exercise when I’m so sick?”. You have proved them wrong – spread the word my friend.

    Organ donors are the best!

  23. I think this is the most amazing story I have read on PB. I hope it encourages others, and gives them hope too. Well done, because you have certainly helped yourself.

  24. John, awesome journey. I wish you many more adventures! What strikes me about your story is that you seemed to have come to terms with you situation. You then dealt with it in a proactive manner. Your gratitude for celebrating each day is warming the hearts of those who have been touch by organ transplant. Also, yours is a story that shows an amazing team (and you are the leader) . Primal lifestyle, modern medicine and the generosity of the donor family… No wonder you are grateful! Peace, Georgina

  25. John – Very inspirational! I enjoy reading your journal. Stories like yours give me hope and help me maintain my own discipline. Thank you for sharing.

  26. What an inspiration! Thank you for sharing and best wishes as you continue your journey.

  27. Fantastic story…keep on keeping on man! In Wales, we’ve adopted an opt out law on organ donation (the only country of the UK to do so). Basically, everyone is considered a potential donor unless they specifically opt out of the scheme.
    Please keep us updated on your progress!

  28. A truly inspiring & dedicating story !!
    Each word of the story from the beginning to the end is very motivational and teach us how to fight against the odds in our life. Thanks for putting these words here in a form of story. Keep doing good work….!!!

  29. John, you just gave me the most valuable motivation to be the heatheist I can be… from now on my heathstyle will be dedicated to those who need an organ when I can’t use them anymore.
    Thank you for your story.

  30. This is pretty amazing John. I usually shy away from leaving comments on forums, but this one just hit too close to home. I too have IPF and am right in the middle of my evaluation to be considered for a bilateral lung transplant plant myself. I have been living with this disease for several years now and it is no picnic.
    I started on the Primal Blueprint about three years ago and lost 67 pounds doing it. My pulmonologist said it was one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. I was actually sprinting when I first started on the plan, but alas I can’t do that now. That is going to be my goal after my transplant is to sprint again. You are quite an inspiration to someone who can really identify. Good luck to you and keep up the good work. Grok On!

    1. Hi Cliff, I am so happy that you found this post. Before my transplant I did my sprints on a recumbent bike. It took me awhile to convince the pulm rehab team that it was ok and I could not go all out at pulm rehab because they would not let me turn the O2 up high enough. At home I could crank it up high enough to maintain my O2 saturation.

      If you ever want to talk with someone who’s been there done that, let me know.

  31. Wow! I have so many mixed emotions about donor transplants but to hear that you think of your donor and how appreciative you are melts my heart. Congratulations!

  32. Haha. Great story. Love the goal of looking good nekkid. Doesn’t matter what you go thru, who you are or age. Everyone secretly wants to LGN!
    Congrats. You are a miracle!

  33. Wow. Thank you everyone for your very kind words and encouragement, they really are appreciated.

  34. This is such an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing your journey of incredible perseverance and bravery!

  35. You kept this a secret? Glad you wrote for this feature—you are our special star, John!

  36. Wow! One of my dearest friends also suffers from this condition (and is currently on the transplant list). I sent this article to her as soon as I read it. I hope it inspires her (I’m sure it will!).

    Thank you for sharing your story! And please keep us updated!

  37. What an incredible and inspirational story. I bet you have helped so many people with your example. Good job!

  38. John I am at end stage kidney failure and in perfect health otherwise. I have been on the transplant list for 4 years and could get the call at any time. Thankfully I have been able to avoid Dialyses so but at 7% filtration rate or function. I have been worried about the long term side effects of the 30 or so pills I have to take to cope with side effects of failure as it is much less the nasty anti rejection drugs after the transplant.
    Have you had any complications with them yet? I know chance of cancer and Diabetes raises taking it not to mention a minor cold could turn life threatening. Hoping following a Whole Foods Paleo diet along with weight training and cardio I already do will alleviate all the potential bad side effects.

  39. I am so happy for you! I lost my mother after a bilateral lung transplant many years ago. I get a thrill everytime I read a sucess lung story. Thank you for sharing what can be a very scary private battle.

  40. John, I love your story, so impressive! But I was wondering, is “swinging kettlebells” a euphemism for something? 😉 After your successes, it should be!

  41. My father (60) is not exceptionally overweight but has IPF as well as a myriad of other autoimmune diseases. (Rheumatoid arthritis being the prime culprit in IPF). He is stuck in his old habits of eating. I don’t know how to get him to listen to the new information because “doctors know best” right?!! He is on oxygen basically 24/7 and is working towards being put on the list for a double lung transplant. If you have any advice in teaching an old dog new tricks. I would love for his outcome to be as successful as yours of course. With diet and prayer, I honestly believe it can. I am doing all the studies I can and as of now I am (38) on a ketogenic diet myself because I suffer from 3 known AI’s and RA being one of those. I have seen some progress but I am only 3 weeks in. All the advice is welcome and of course I’ll be sharing your story and if you have any FB groups or forums you recommend, literature, websites, etc…please let me know. Thank you.