Six years ago, Jaime Muñoz’s doctors in New Mexico told him he did not have long to live. Today, after a new diagnosis and a double-lung transplant in Denver, Jaime Muñoz, 38, can walk into National Jewish Health without oxygen therapy and with hope that he will be with his wife and children long into the future.
In 2003, Jaime and his wife Shirley were living “life the way it was supposed to go” in Albuquerque. At age 31, Jaime had a good job working for a pesticide company, they had just bought a two-story home and Shirley was a stay-at-home mom to their daughter and son.
Jaime began experiencing shortness of breath and received a diagnosis of walking pneumonia. When it didn’t go away after a few months, and Jaime could no longer climb the stairs in their new home, he visited a local physician in February 2004. He received a diagnosis of non-specific interstitial pneumonitis (NSIP), a type of interstitial lung disease (ILD). He was prescribed prednisone, and was told that the medication would resolve most cases of NSIP.
He did not respond to treatment and returned to the doctor. Jaime and Shirley will never forget April 28, 2004 when they were told that he was dying and did not have long to live. According to Shirley, “they only saw a patient they could not treat, not the man who was dying before them.” Shirley and Jaime left the hospital not knowing where to turn next.
In July 2004, a phone call would change the direction of Jaime’s life. A former client had seen a news story about new lung treatments. After speaking to several physicians, they were referred to National Jewish Health.
At his first appointment at National Jewish Health in August 2004, Jaime knew that “we were in the right spot. They answered all of our questions before we even asked them, and they treated me like a person.”
Gregory Cosgrove, MD, FCCP, diagnosed pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that causes progressive scarring of lung tissue, which stiffens the lungs and makes breathing difficult. Dr. Cosgrove prescribed medication and put Jaime on oxygen therapy for the first time.
Dr. Cosgrove also gave Jaime and Shirley hope for the future – something they had given up only a few months earlier. Dr. Cosgrove said he would do everything he could to make sure Jaime could walk his daughter down the aisle.
He also encouraged Jaime to live an active life. Jaime continued to play golf – despite some odd looks for playing while using oxygen therapy. He also began pulmonary rehabilitation three times a week, where he learned how to breathe and was able to work out.
Over the next five years, Dr. Cosgrove worked with Jaime’s physicians in Albuquerque. “We counted on National Jewish Health to tell our doctors in New Mexico what to do.”
In late 2009 Jaime’s condition began to deteriorate, and by the summer of 2010 Dr. Cosgrove recommended that he sign up for the transplant list. Jaime was put on the list on August 5, 2010 and was astonished to receive a match on October 3. By that evening, Jaime, Shirley and 30 family members were in the surgical prep area at University of Colorado, where Jaime received a double lung transplant. Before Jaime even woke up, Dr. Cosgrove was at the hospital to visit him.
Jaime continues to recover and grows stronger with each day, and he and Shirley are working to raise awareness about pulmonary fibrosis and National Jewish Health.
“I credit the amazing people at National Jewish Health with saving my life,” Jaime said.
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