MAYWOOD, IL. – On March 20, Andrew Gaumer celebrated the 10th anniversary of his life-saving heart and double-lung transplant.
On Mother’s Day, his wife, Andrea, gave birth to their first child, a baby boy named Jude. And on June 21, Andrew will celebrate his first Father’s Day – a milestone he once feared he would never see.
“I had no idea being a father would be so good,” Andrew said. “Andrea and I sit and stare at Jude for hours.”
Andrew was born with cystic fibrosis, which causes thick fluid to form in the lungs and other organs. As he reached his 20s, it became increasingly difficult for Andrew to breathe. He spent 14 months at the Ronald McDonald House near Loyola, waiting for a transplant.
Andrew was on oxygen 24 hours a day. He was constantly short of breath – like forever running on a treadmill. Even simple tasks such as putting on socks or brushing his teeth left Andrew gasping for breath.
One of his lungs became infected and shrank, and the other lung grew larger to compensate. The enlarged lung, in turn, stressed his heart and pushed it out of position. So Andrew’s Loyola physicians decided to perform a combined heart and double-lung transplant.
Andrew underwent the heart-lung transplant on March 20, 2005. The transplant was successful, and Andrew’s transplanted organs continue to function normally. He can run a 5-K race or climb a mountain. “You’re limitless in what you can do,” he said.
Andrew lives in Ankeny, Iowa, and works full time as a seafood manager at a supermarket. He and Andrea married in 2012.
Erin Lowery, MD, Andrew’s pulmonologist, said Andrew is an inspiration to patients waiting for lung transplants. She tells them that Andrew’s case illustrates how there is “light at the end of the tunnel, and that they can have the sort of life they long for.”
Andrew, 33, sometimes recalls the months when he was desperately ill, and unsure whether he would survive long enough until organs became available.
“Every day since then has been a gift,” Andrew said. “I feel really blessed.”