TFC News

Filipino nurse in US finds new life in rare lung-liver transplant

Steve Angeles | TFC News USA

Posted at Dec 03 2022 12:17 PM

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The past three months have been a breath of fresh air for 63-year-old Patricio Collera.

Last August, the retired nurse was on the surgery table for a rare and complicated liver-lung transplant.

Originally from Leyte, Collera worked 25 years as a PICC line nurse. In 2019, he was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease and non-alcoholic liver disease, and needed to wear an oxygen tank to live.

"My life was miserable for months and more than a year, palagi ako naka-oxygen. I have my nasal cannula. I’m out and about. I'm on nasal cannula. I go to the grocery store, I’m carrying a couple tanks of oxygen," Collera shared.

"Now I don’t wear anything. I haven’t had oxygen since I was discharged September 8th. A very different outlook on life. I’m more hopeful now than before. I was hopeless because the surgery is very rare. I’m the first liver-lung transplant for Northwestern."

Other hospitals declined to perform the surgery, citing the complications of the procedures and his advanced age. But this whole time, he didn’t realize that he could get his surgery at the very hospital he had worked at. In August, he received one lung and a liver from an unidentified donor.

"We compare this to a very large ballroom dance and everybody dancing independently but in perfect harmony so at any given time in the operating room, there were over 20 people but the whole team stands over a hundred. That includes people in the operating room and people outside," Dr. Ankit Bharat, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Northwestern, noted.

As Collera celebrates the holidays, he said this health battle has left him with plenty to be thankful for, and many lessons learned.

"Don't be hopeless. One thing I’ve learned is prayers do help a lot," Collera said. "I have a whole ton of friends from the Philippines, my classmates in high school, my friends in college, I reached out to them to pray that I’ll be in good hands, with the surgeons and para dun sa mga bata pa, take your life seriously."

"Don’t smoke. I was a heavy smoker. Drink moderately. I was a heavy drinker, although the cirrhosis was non-alcoholic, I do believe my heavy drinking days when I was young contributed to something with my liver also."

But there is one person who helped make this all possible that Collera wishes he can meet and thank personally.

"I would like to thank the organ donor. I don’t know who he or she is. I would like to thank her or him for the perfect liver and perfect lung for me. Thank you very much whoever you are. The organs are very happy together with my native lung so I told Dr. Barat they are holding hands."

Only 10 lung-liver transplants have been performed in the US this year.