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Huntington Beach Man Receives First Minimally Invasive Double-Lung Transplant In US

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A Huntington Beach man has had a second chance at life after he received the nation's first ever minimally invasive double-lung transplant.

Huntington Beach Man Receives First Minimally Invasive Double-Lung Transplant In US
Frank Coburn of Huntington Beach after undergoing a double lung transplant in April of 2021. (Credit: Family photo)

57-year-old Frank Coburn was beginning his second chapter, enjoying life with his loving bride of more than 30 years, and the success of his two adult daughters, when the avid biker started experiencing shortness of breath.

"I would always cough on an intake, and I'd have to kind of belly breathe," Coburn told CBS2 News This Morning's DeMarco Morgan.

In March of 2020, he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.

"When I realized how bad that was, things kind of changed a little bit inside for me," Coburn said.

"I was on oxygen part time all the way until late December," Coburn said.

Then he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

"I got COVID, and then I was on oxygen full-time," Coburn said.

"At the worst, I have a bedroom upstairs and we had an oxygen concentrator downstairs, an oxygen concentrator upstairs, and my wife literally would meet me halfway in the middle, and we'd exchange oxygen," Coburn said.

Coburn thought his days on earth were numbered.

"I took a motorcycle ride in September of 2020 that I thought might be my last motorcycle ride," he said.

Coburn needed a set of new lungs. His name was eventually added to a transplant waiting list. Five days later, he received a call for a match. He admits he worried more about his appearance post-surgery than he was about the procedure itself.

"I was concerned about the scar, I typically go shirtless, I ride shirtless often," Coburn said.

To his surprise, cardiothoracic surgeons at the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute in Los Angeles had a plan.

"Frank had in-stage lung failure," Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Pedro Catarino said.

"Typically, lung transplantion is done through a much bigger incision, an incision called a clamshell incision, that goes from one armpit, across the breastbone, to the other armpit," Catarino explained.

The surgery involves breaking the breastbone into two pieces and requires patients to rely on a heart-lung machine. To avoid that, Dr. Catarino and his team used a technique developed in Germany that requires an incision between the ribs not much longer than a drivers license.

"We call it a credit card type incision," Catarino said.

"We have been able to reduce the size of the lung transplant incision progressively, so that we can now do it through a really quite small incision with special instruments which are designed for minimally invasive surgery," Catarino explained.

Welcomed news for a patient making history in a way he never might have imagined.

"I can live, I can breathe," Coburn said. "I just consider myself highly lucky, highly fortunate that they did this on me," he added.

It's been a little more than six weeks since the transplant. Coburn looks great and is getting better by the day.

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