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Valley hospital reaches 400 lung transplants in 10 years

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A United States Air Force Veteran was the 400th lung transplantation at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute.

It’s a milestone for the Valley hospital that provides lung transplants for people from all over the country.

“That’s kind of interesting because when they said that (400th), I said, ‘Well, so?’” said retired Air Force Maj. Bob Skaar. “I could have been 399 or 401 or whatever but just happened to be in line in 400th place.”

The 69 year-old from Alamogordo, New Mexico has been on 20 trips and seen over 50 countries with his wife since 2005. Traveling was when Skaar first noticed symptoms of what turned out to be pulmonary fibrosis.

“We were in Bhutan, and we were going to climb up to the Eagle’s Nest which is a monastery on top of a hill,” he said. “I started walking up this hill and all of a sudden, I said, ‘Well I just can’t keep with everybody.’”

The Skaars put the traveling on hold and began to research treatments.

“What the disease was, what the prospects were, no treatment,” Skaar remembered. “Only way to extend it is through a lung transplant…which, you know, made me dizzy thinking about.”

After extensive research, Skaar ended up in at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital which has provided services for patients from more than 30 different states.

After being on a waiting list of just six weeks, Skaar go the call to come in.

“I didn’t really have time to worry about it,” he said. “Next morning they did it and here I am. I feel great!”

Skaar is still recovering, but the Skaars plan to start traveling to see family back in New Mexico soon. After that, they hope to be ready to travel the world once again.

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