Seven years ago, Ty Pinkerton was dying of cystic fibrosis.
Physicians at a San Diego hospital told his parents that it was time to disconnect the life-support equipment that was keeping him alive.
Ty was already removed from the cadaveric lung transplant waiting list due to his deteriorating condition. The only hope stemmed from a surgeon his parents had heard lecture at a transplant education program a few months before. That surgeon was Vaughn Starnes, Hastings Professor and chair of cardiothoracic surgery at USC.
Starnes had pioneered the living-related double-lobar lung transplant in which the recipient receives two healthy lung lobes from two donors. At that point, Starnes had performed the surgery only once before.
While Ty was airlifted from San Diego to USC University Hospital for the procedure, his lung capacity was reduced to the size of a quarter. For the entire 150-mile trek, the helicopter hugged the coastline flying only 500 feet above the water; any higher and the pressure endangered Ty’s life.
His parents Paul Hartup and Darlene Pinkerton as well as his stepfather, Tom Pinkerton, were all tested to be donors. The decision was made that his biological parents were the most suitable match. After three five-hour surgeries involving more than 30 members of three surgical teams, the transplant was a success.
Ty remembers the day he was taken off of the ventilator as “the single most exciting moment of my life.”
“I took the first deep, clear breath I ever took in my life. I couldn’t stop breathing in–it was great,” he said.
Today, he is the longest surviving adult of the living-related double-lobar lung transplant procedure and on May 12th, Ty did what was previously unthinkable: he graduated from the USC Thornton School of Music, with a degree in music and music industry.