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A Man of Good Faith: Peoria Resident, Iraq Native, Relies on Religion and Love While Undergoing Lung Transplantation

by Staff
May 4, 2009
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PHOENIX, (christiansunite.com) -- Sabah Zakaria, 49, is a devote Christian and man of faith, so it was no surprise that he was leading a Bible study when he received the call from the Heart & Lung Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center to undergo his double lung transplantation. What was a surprise to hospital staff was that all 20 members of the Bible study came with Sabah and waited, along with his wife Susan, until he was brought to the operating room.

"I truly had no fear -- just joy," says Sabah. "I knew no medicine or remedies could cure me, transplantation was the right thing to do. My wife led a prayer with the surgeons and the rest was out of my hands."

Before Sabah's transplantation he suffered from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic, progressive lung disease with no known cause.

"Given the downward course of his disease and health, Sabah's life expectancy would have been less than one year," says Michael Smith, MD, thoracic surgeon at the Heart & Lung Institute. "His daily activity would have become increasingly limited."

A native of Iraq, Sabah worked for the U.S. Military as a cultural advisor, educating troops about Iraqi cultures and traditions. When he became in-active in 2008, Sabah continued to focus on his faith and searched for the best alternative to cure his pulmonary fibrosis. Sabah struggled with the decision to undergo the lung transplant. He feared leaving his wife of 20 years.

"When I started depending on my oxygen tank to be able to sit down or stand up I knew the decision was made," says Sabah. "I want to be with my wife for the next 40 years and now because of my faith and my angels -- doctors, nurses and staff at St. Joseph's ¯ I can be."

Lung transplants are among the most complicated medical procedures. St. Joseph's selects candidates who are eligible for lung transplants and places them on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant list. Surgeons have approximately six hours to transplant a lung once one is retrieved. Following the surgery, lung transplant recipients must undergo lifelong care and regular check-ups with lung transplant specialists.

St. Joseph's is the only Valley hospital to perform lung transplants. Twenty-five patients have undergone the procedure at St. Joseph's since the hospital began offering lung transplants in April 2007.

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