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December 18, 2012
Two Lungs, Two Kids and a Dog
MAYWOOD, Ill. - When Rick Smeberg walked his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day, he had to drag along a portable oxygen tank due to his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
A double-lung transplant at Loyola University Medical Center enabled Smeberg to live to see his two granddaughters. And today, he is taking care of them full-time - along with a German shepherd - while his daughter and son-in-law are at work.
"My girls are very close to their grandpa, and he is very close to them," said Smeberg's daughter, Jill Boganwright. "He's their world, and they're his world, too."
Smeberg, who lives in Highland, Ind., cares for 2-year-old Kara and 1-year-old Audra, who live in nearby Munster, Ind. He cares for his granddaughters from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week, plus Saturday mornings. Smeberg makes breakfast and lunch, changes diapers, gives baths, walks them in the stroller and finds endless ways to entertain them, such as sidewalk chalk drawings.
"I spoil them, too," he said.
Loyola lung transplant specialist Dr. Daniel Dilling said Smeberg, 66, has no limitations to his lifestyle or function. "He is using his gift very well," Dilling said.
Smeberg's COPD forced him to retire at age 49 from his job as a steel mill heavy equipment mechanic. He spent 10 years tethered to an oxygen tank before receiving a double-lung transplant in 2008.
"Without the transplant, I would have died," he said. "My donor saved my life, and I have been very lucky with the respiratory doctors I have had."
Boganwright said her father has always been a great dad. "And he's even a better grandpa," she said. "He has the biggest heart, and now he has the capability to continue loving and caring."
Loyola's Lung Transplantation Program is the largest in Illinois and among the top centers in the nation. The program takes a holistic approach to care, which addresses patients’ physical, emotional and educational needs.
Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.