Extending a life with a lung transplant

Lung transplant recipient Mike Preston visits with his grandchildren.

An uncontrollable cough led Tampa Bay-area resident Mike Preston to seek medical attention.

Preston visited his primary care physician and specialists to find out the cause. Within five months, Preston had the diagnosis — pulmonary fibrosis. Ultimately, the only treatment for the disease was a lung transplant.

At the time of his diagnosis nearly five years ago, Preston worked full time at his family-owned business and had an active lifestyle. He enjoyed trips to the beach, boating in the waters along Boca Grande in Southwest Florida, and spending time with his family. By the end of 2015, Preston’s condition had severely deteriorated.

“I was on oxygen 24 hours a day — a machine at home and a portable machine for outings,” said Preston, now 70. “It got to the point where the portable oxygen machine was not powerful enough to keep me going when I was active. I could go for a little bit, but then I had to sit down and let the oxygen rebuild in my body.”

It was time for the lung transplant. In late December 2015, Preston contacted UF Health. In early March, he was accepted to UF Health’s lung transplant program.

“Three weeks later, I got the call,” he said. Preston received a new lung at the hands of Tiago N. Machuca, MD, an assistant professor in the division of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery and a lung transplant surgeon.

“My family and I were really impressed with Dr. Machuca,” Preston said. “He spoke with my family several times. He was extraordinarily nice and extremely helpful.”

Preston spent about 11 days in the hospital, and another month undergoing rehab. He said he and his family experienced “outstanding service” during his care at UF Health Shands Hospital.

“If you stopped and looked around, someone would ask, ‘Can I help you?’ It didn’t matter if it was a nurse, doctor, maintenance worker — anyone. Someone would help you, and they didn’t just point you in the right direction. They walked you to where you needed to go,” Preston said.

Preston said he is now back to doing most of his favorite activities — including spending time with his family and boating. He is especially happy that he can keep up with his two grandchildren — a very active 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl.

“I do have some limitations. I can’t swim because there’s a risk of getting water in my lungs, and I have to stay out of crowded areas unless I’m wearing a mask,” Preston said. “I really can do about 90 percent of what I did before I got sick. The other 10 percent, I’m finding some substitutes.”

Preston still spends a few hours a day in the office, and he is looking forward to a peaceful retirement.

“Out of the choices I had, I’m glad I went to UF Health,’’ he said. “I would recommend the health care system to anyone — and I already have.”