SURVIVORS: Lufkin city manager amazed with transplant recovery

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - After surviving a life-threatening operation, Paul Parker is back to performing his city manager duties following a lung transplant in February.

"I'm amazed I'm where I am and being able to come back to work. The strength is great; I really don't have any issues," Parker said "I'm not on oxygen at all, which is great after being on oxygen 24 hours a day."

In August, Parker's co-workers witnessed his health decline.

"We thought he was just sick with initially a cold or a flu, and then it never would go away," Keith Wright, Lufkin deputy city manager, said.

The 64-year-old had only missed two days of work throughout his career and was suddenly experiencing an unknown illness.

"It was initially kind of a shock that things progressed and happened real fast with Mr. Parker's lungs," Wright said.

Parker was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and was given a year to a year and a half left to live.

"I didn't know the severity of it. My first comment to her was well when do we start the treatment. What do we do? Then she basically told me that it was an incurable disease," Parker said.

Without knowing what caused the illness there was no treatment.

"That disease is basically the scarring of your lungs," Parker said. "It scars over until you basically have no capacity and you suffocate."

Tests showed Parker was qualified to receive a double, left or right lung transplant, and amazingly a week later a match was found.

"They told me it would be three months to six months normally. It could be a year to two years based on availability of lungs. I was very fortunate, "Parker said. "For some reason I didn't think it was going to be a reality. I just thought we wouldn't get the lung at that time."

He was out of ICU 30 hours after surgery and has been back at work with no difficulties for a month now.

"It's kind of like a dream. It's kind of like did this really happen because Paul has recovered so well," Wright said.

He may have to take a hand full of medications and antibiotics each day but he certainly has a new outlook on life.

"Its still got a long process to go but at least now the outlook is very positive. We have hope, you know, we don't have a time table standing over us. So, you know who knows. It could happen tomorrow but it could happen to any of us tomorrow, so at least I've got that hope again."

 Copyright 2013 KTRE. All rights reserved.