PHOENIX (June 12, 2023) – This Father’s Day, a Valley man is celebrating his double lung transplant the same way he celebrates the gift of life every day – by being the best husband and father-of-two he can be.
Aaron Carroll, 40, was born in Phoenix with cystic fibrosis (CF) and has spent much of his life in hospitals. Six years ago, Carroll was at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, which is home to Norton Thoracic Institute, waiting for a lifesaving double lung transplant. All he could think about were his wife Tessia and six-year-old son, Dexter.
“The fact that I am still here and able to be a father is the greatest, most miraculous gift,” Carroll says.
Approximately 1,000 people are diagnosed each year with CF – a chronic, genetic condition that affects different parts of the body. It can lead to respiratory failure when it impacts the lungs, making transplantation a treatment option to prolong life and improve quality of life.
In 2017, Carroll had entered respiratory failure and relied on oxygen tanks to help him breathe. After a thorough evaluation process at St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute, Carroll was added to the national organ waiting list. He waited for less than a month before receiving the gift of life.
His recovery was exceptional – communicating immediately, up and walking the following day, and released home just 10 days after undergoing one of the most intricate surgical procedures in medicine.
“All I wanted to do was hug my wife and son, and my parents,” says Carroll. “They were my motivation. After a lot of thought and because of the generous, lifesaving donation, Tessia and I were able to bring another life into the world. Our youngest son, Orson, was born a few years after my transplant.”
While Carroll’s lungs no longer have CF, he is still cautious and proactive with his health as the rest of his body will always be affected, and the lungs in his chest are still foreign to his body.
“Post-transplant care is life long and requires patients to remain diligent. We have to carefully balance the health of the donor lungs while watching for signs of infection and organ rejection. Patients like Aaron, who have CF and other conditions, have a completely additional layer of complexity,” explains Rajat Walia, MD, pulmonologist and medical director of the lung transplant program at St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute. “Aaron’s resilience, and determination to live a full life is a wonderful inspiration to our team and our patients.”
Home to one of the nation’s largest lung transplant programs, Norton Thoracic Institute also provides a variety of resources to optimize the quality of life for adults with CF and other advanced lung conditions.
Carroll considers himself fortunate in spite of struggles with cystic fibrosis and other serious illnesses.
“I was lucky to be raised by incredible parents,” says Carroll who lives with his wife and children in Surprise. “Then Tessia came into my life when I was five. We reconnected in our twenties and got married. She is my best friend and the most amazing caregiver. And, now we are blessed to share the adventure of raising two boys who are larger than life itself.”
He notes that he’s also grateful for his donor and doctors, coordinators and nurses at St. Joseph’s who he credits with his continued lease on life.
Over the last year, Carroll celebrated six years post-transplant, his 15th wedding anniversary, Dexter’s 12th birthday, and Orson’s second birthday. As he looks forward to celebrating many more milestones together as a family, Carroll also shares fatherly wisdom looking toward Father’s Day weekend.
“To me, fatherhood is the ultimate blessing. It’s the quiet unraveling of a man to build the life of another. It’s uncontrollable love. Living with CF isn’t easy, but it’s given me a silent strength that has only grown more powerful by being a dad,” says Carroll.
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