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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 [1] 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 [2]. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Hello, my name is John and I have been following The Primal Blueprint [3] 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.

So I started with The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation [4], 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 [3] 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 [5].

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.

When 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 [6].

My number one goal, which was suggested to me by a forum friend, Narrowminded [7], 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 [8], 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 [3] 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 [9] 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,” [10] and as part of their efforts to raise awareness and encourage people to register as organ donors, the organization PatientsLikeMe interviewed yours truly [11].