PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Bill Strickland is back at UPMC Presbyterian to thank the doctors and nurses who gave him new life.
"Literally every breath I take is a miracle," he said. "I don't have an oxygen bottle, on my feet, I don't have a cane. Life's pretty good."
It's a miracle of modern medicine that Strickland now walks down the hospital hall with ease. Only months ago, he needed a break after a few steps.
Strickland was used to traveling the world, building schools in under-served neighborhoods, giving inspirational speeches about his rise from the streets of Manchester to CEO, and spreading his message about the importance of art to transform lives. But his health was limiting him.
His surgeons, doctors Jonathan D'Cunha and Norihisa Shigemura, are thrilled to see him back at work helping others.
"I think he's doing better than expected to be honest with you. He's recovered remarkably," D'Cunha said.
"That's the most encouraging thing, that's why we are standing here to continue to do this job," Shigemura said.
Strickland's lungs were in terrible shape, damaged by emphysema as a result of years of smoking.
"It's literally like breathing through a straw and I had enough of it, basically I was dying. They didn't say it that way but I probably had 12 months to live," Strickland said.
The doctors and nurses say Strickland's success after the surgery had a lot to do with what he did before it.
He went to physical therapy four days a week to strengthen his body, all while using oxygen.
Lisa Carozza, who coordinated his therapy, says Strickland's determination translated from his work to his health.
"He understands what needs to be done and he understands whatever the obstacles are, he's going to get around them, over them somehow he will fix that whatever the problem is," Carozza said.
This latest chapter in Strickland's life fits the title of his autobiography: "Make The Impossible Possible".
He said it's helped him see that it's relationships with people that mean the most, like his wife Rose who made sure he took his anti-rejection medicine, his doctors and nurses who cared for him for weeks on end and friends who share his story.
"I had a lung transplant that changed my life. And Kristine I'm telling you, it did in ways I can't yet even measure. When you're lying there not sure if the sun is going to come up, it has a very profound effect on everything you see."
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