Lung Recipient Keeps Trucking Toward Home

Vol. 21 • Issue 27 • Page 4
Success Story

This will be a special holiday season for Nick Nigro, 61, of Hillside, N.J., thanks to the special efforts of a group of dedicated therapists at Meadow View Nursing and Respiratory Care Center, Williamstown, N.J.

Nigro arrived at Meadow View in 2005 with a complex of major chronic illnesses caused by an unhealthy lifestyle he developed as a long-distance truck driver. He was obese and had diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and chronic anxiety and depression.

When he came to the center, he had a tracheal tube, was totally ventilator-dependent and could barely respond to yes-and-no questions, according to Meadow View staff.

Weaning him was no easy task. The trucker was lethargic, disoriented and unable to respond to simple commands. He was also dangerously erratic, pulling at monitoring devices. He even yanked out his trach tube several times.

His real weaning process began with a reduction in anti-anxiety drugs, a crucial step that helped him interact with others.

“Nick had severe anxiety and very high PCO2” said Zygmunt Morawski, CRTT, director of respiratory care at Meadow View. “He had just one thing going for him: the will to succeed.”

Over the next year, Nigro worked hard to wean himself from the ventilator, despite setbacks along the way. He developed a severe case of pneumonia just after he had succeeded in weaning for two hours a day.

By early 2007, he lost considerable weight and spent 12 hours a day off the ventilator. Staff referred him to specialists at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to determine whether he would be a candidate for lung resection surgery.

No go, came the verdict. Good news followed though. “They thought Nick could be a candidate for a lung transplant,” Morawski said. However, he would need to lose an additional 20 pounds, be able to take 400 steps without assistance and have a strong enough heart for surgery.

Nigro soon became a role model for everyone in the unit, Morawski explained. “He started an exercise club and encouraged others to lose weight along with him.”

After he could take up to 1,300 steps a day, he was cleared for surgery and underwent a lung transplant this past Labor Day weekend.

His surgery was successful, and center officials expect he will return home by the first of the year. “We have never seen perseverance like this,” Morawski said.