Transplant Recipient Bob Harvey Grateful

Thursday, January 11, 2018
By Transcript Staff

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

Winthrop’s Bob Harvey just celebrated an anniversary, one he’s worked hard to achieve, one that his family and friends are grateful for.

He can now proudly say he is a five-year survivor of a double lung transplant.

Harvey’s quest began back in April 2010 when he noticed a shortness of breath, especially one day when he was departing an airplane, walking up the ramp and had to stop to catch his breath. He was taken to the hospital and found he had renal cell carcinoma in one of his kidneys.

In June 2010 he had his right kidney removed and that made him a high risk patient. He then was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and was given three years to live.

He was then recommended to the transplant department at Massachusetts General. Oncologists agreed he would be a good candidate for transplant, a $3-$4 million operation.

Then he was denied because he had to be cancer free for five years.

After much research Harvey, 60, found that Duke University would let him in if he lost 30 pounds.

He set up oxygen at home and used his treadmill 45-minutes a day. He used his wife’s cousin, who works with the Red Sox, as his dietitian.

During this time he would go to Duke every three months. July 4 he moved down to Durham, North Carolina to be near Duke. He was there for 10 months and worked out like a fiend to get his body ready for a double lung transplant.

At 9 p.m. on Dec. 22, 2013 Harvey found himself on the operating table ready for transplant. Thirteen hours later the surgical team was finished and six hours after that Harvey was up and walking. Then he spent eight days in the hospital, went to rehab and he and his wife drove home February 2013.

“I missed my kids, it was a long drive but it was like adrenaline,” Harvey said.

Harvey believes that his exposure to ethlyne oxide, a known carcinogenic, used for sterilizing medical devices, contributed to his lung cancer. As part of the medical instrument business he worked at Malden Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess, Boston Medical Center, Lahey Clinic and other facilities.

“It’s the best sterilizer in the world it kills everything including people,” Harvey said. “That’s my feeling on how I got sick. That’s just my opinion.”

Harvey had always been a proponent of organ donation, but now after his transplant he feels even more strongly that people should become an organ donor. All Harvey knows of his donor is that the young man had a hunting accident. That donor not only left his lungs, but also his heart and kidneys.

“This guy saved the lives of five others,” Harvey said.

It’s been a tough road for Harvey and his family. There have been many more trips to the hospital. He’s also taking about 30 pills a day and injections of insulin.

Harvey said he’s had good days and bad days, but his family, friends and neighbors have been there for him the whole time. They raised $80,000 at a fundraiser, they’ve donated time in Florida, picked him up at the airport and made sure he had everything he and his family needed.

During his ordeal many people have lent their support, especially from Chrissy and Jerry Ogus, Chuck and Nancy Famolare, the Harvards, the Lally family and Connie Goll.

“I am thankful for Winthrop coming together and helping me,” said Harvey, who is now a bone and cornea donor. In fact, his entire family are now donors.



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