A Breath of Fresh Air - Coal Miner Recovering After Double Lung Transplant



Carly Carver, Editor

The Ashland Beacon

   Former coal miner and Martin County native Randy Brown is now recovering after a successful double lung transplant in Nashville.

   The 64-year-old and his wife, Debbie Brown, are residents of Louisa but have been staying in an apartment near Vanderbilt University hospital for the past eight weeks.

   Randy Brown was diagnosed with complicated “black lung” after spending 39-plus years as a coal miner in Eastern Kentucky and Southwestern West Virginia.

   According to Debbie Brown, Randy Brown’s wife of 44 years, he began having difficulties in 2013. “We started coming to Vanderbilt four years ago,” said Debbie Brown.

   Randy Brown was then diagnosed with PMF (progressive massive fibrosis) in both lungs.

   “It’s the worst kind of black lung,” said Debbie Brown. “At first we were in denial, we didn’t realize it would progress as fast as it did, we were limited in what we could do.”

   When he went to Vanderbilt University for an evaluation, Debbie Brown said they were told he would need new lungs in the future, but Brown wasn’t ready for a transplant yet.

   “They kept telling him ‘you’ll know when it is time’,” said Debbie Brown.

   Debbie Brown said that hearing the news that her husband would need new lungs was hard for the couple.

   “We were nervous, we were anxious, we cried, but we knew that God would see us through it,” said Debbie. “We had some friends who had been through it, and they gave us comfort.”

   Debbie Brown said that Randy Brown started declining in January, and needed full time oxygen, and that moving around became extremely difficult.

   “He couldn’t sleep at all either, he was gurgling at night,” said Debbie Brown. “We called them in February, and he was on the list for seven days when they took us off because of COVID-19. So, in April, I called, and they put him on again and in three days we got a phone call. He had the transplant on May 3.”

   Debbie Brown said due to the COVID-19 regulations, herself and her family was not able to go in the hospital with Randy Brown for his double transplant, but they stayed nearby supporting him.

   “We sat in the parking garage while surgery was going on,” said Debbie Brown. “We could FaceTime after he got out, but during the 11 days he was hospitalized I only saw him about 15 minutes.”

   Debbie Brown said she is grateful to the doctors at Vanderbilt University for caring for her husband during the time. “They were a wonderful team of doctors,” said Debbie.

   The recovery process has been going smoothly so far, said Randy Brown.

   “God has really blessed him in this,” said Debbie Brown. “He was released from the hospital in 11 days, he is walking four to five miles a day, he is recovering great.”

   Randy Brown said one challenge so far has been adapting to all the new medications he has to take, totaling over 20 pills a day. Right now, Randy Brown is going every Monday to the hospital, and then a doctor once a week, as well as physical therapy four to five days a week.

   “We will have to come back every three months for the first year,” said Debbie Brown.

   The Browns’ said that they believe the success of the double transplant, as well as the smooth recovery, are all due to the Glory of God.

   “We really give all of the praise to God,” said Debbie Brown. “And we cannot thank the donor’s family enough. We are just very thankful for them. We don’t know who they are, but we are so grateful for this.”

   Debbie Brown said while her husband was in surgery, that he was lifted in prayers from all over the world.

   “We had people in 22 different states and three different countries praying for us,” said Debbie Brown. “It was amazing.”

   Randy Brown, who is still emotional during his recovery, said he is grateful for the chance to spend more time with his two sons, two grandkids, and two daughters-in-law.

   “This extended 10 to 15 more years of life, when previously he didn’t know that he would make it to celebrate the holidays with us,” said Debbie Brown.