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Randy Sims

Defying the Lung Transplant Odds

If anyone is going to advance and improve the transplant statistics, it’s going to happen here in St. Louis with this transplant team. The time is now.

Randy Sims

Randy Sims, a double lung transplant recipient, has faced and overcome many discouraging statistics in his life.

As a young child, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system and makes breathing difficult.

After years of frequent chest colds, shortness of breath and digestive problems, doctors in his small rural hometown told his worried parents that he just had a series of viruses. Randy finally received an accurate diagnosis after his parents took him to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for a second opinion when he was 10 years old.

But along with his diagnosis came some disheartening news. He was told he may only make it to 12 years old. When he made it to 12, he was told 16. Then 18. Then 21. But he survived and surpassed all of these milestones.

Right after celebrating his 31st birthday, Randy received the call that his lung function had decreased to the point that he would need a double lung transplant. He was put on the waiting list for donor organs.

Twenty months later, he received the double lung transplant he had been waiting for and faced another frightening reality: five years post-transplant, only 50 percent of patients survive.

But today, two decades later, Randy and his beloved wife, Teresa, are celebrating his ability to beat the odds, and he’s not taking anything for granted.

A Happy “Breath Day”

In his chapter after transplant, Randy is most grateful for the little things in life, like being able to start the day without cumbersome and time-consuming breathing treatments for his CF; being able to take the trash out without becoming winded; and being able to partake in his favorite sport, golf.

Randy recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of his double lung transplant, which Teresa calls his “Breath Day.” To mark the special milestone, Teresa planned 20 experiences for 20 years.

In his worst days before his transplant, Randy was unable to work and could barely swing a golf club. Now, he’s playing some of the best courses in the country. The couple recently traveled to one of the most beautiful golfing destinations in the country in Pebble Beach, California, and attended the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

“I can tell you that the first 32 years of my life were good, but these past 20 years have truly been amazing,” Randy says.

“Twenty years to the day, to the hour, of the surgery, I was walking around on the grounds at the Masters. I wouldn’t have believed it if someone told me right before my surgery, ‘Hey, don’t worry about anything. This is what you’ll be doing in 20 years.’”

Giving Back to the Best

Two years after his transplant surgery, Randy participated in an article for a local newspaper celebrating Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s ranking as one of the best hospitals by the U.S. News & World Report. He framed several copies of the article with thank you notes and sent them to his care team, including John Lynch, MD.

Several years later, Randy and Teresa were visiting Barnes-Jewish and stopped in to say hello to Dr. Lynch, now vice president and chief medical officer of Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“I joked with him a little bit that I was glad that he remembered me since I had not done a very good job of keeping in touch,” Randy says. “He then told Teresa and me to come back to his office. There on the wall in the middle of his degrees and certificates was a framed article and my picture with my note of thanks that I had given him some 13 years ago.”

Dr. Lynch then looked at Randy and said, “I’m not going to forget you.”

“That’s the kind of people that I get to have take care of me,” Randy says. “And that’s the kind of people that you’re investing in to continue the great work here at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.”

Randy knows firsthand the importance of giving back to benefit the research of the world-class physicians, like Dr. Lynch, who helped save his life.

“We’ve got the best of the best,” Randy says. “We need to make sure they have the tools necessary to continue on. If anyone is going to advance and improve the transplant statistics, it’s going to happen here in St. Louis with this transplant team. The time is now. We’ve got the assets of the brainpower here, so we need to make sure they have the resources. It’s going to be a huge victory for the health care world. I am very excited and hopeful to personally witness this victory some day. And I am so thankful to God and for the entire team of transplant surgeons, physicians and coordinators who are on this journey with me!”