FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- About two months ago a local Fresno man was the 1000th patient to receive a lung transplant from a program at UCSF in San Francisco.
The program at UCSF started in 1991 and they have come a long way in terms of success rates. Now, they hope to achieve even bigger milestones with the goal of extending patients' lives even longer.
Patrick Alexander, or "Patient 1,000" as many now call him, has been out of the hospital for nearly two months after his lung transplant surgery. But it's only been about a week since he returned home to Fresno.
"I've been milking that for all it's worth, trying to get as much out of it as I can. I asked for a free T-shirt but it didn't show up. Yy kids call me 'Dad 1,000' now," explained Alexander.
Title or no title, the Alexanders are grateful for the team of doctors who made the transplant possible. Patrick's battle with pulmonary fibrosis was caught early and qualified him as a perfect candidate for the procedure, which is not always the case.
"It's at the cost of someone else that I have a set of lungs and I want to be respectful of that, and also some people don't have as smooth a road as I do," said Alexander.
Post-surgery, Patrick is expected to increase his life expectancy. It's a second chance he didn't consider until his neighbor, who's also a pulmonary specialist, convinced him otherwise.
"Our very first encounter he was smiling and he goes, 'You know, I'm a Christian. I'm faithful and I've made peace with my maker and what happens happens.' And I'm thinking, 'Oh my god, this man is already ready to die.'" said Dr. Kathryn Bilello, Pulmonary Specialist with UCSF Fresno Program.
After getting a diagnosis and learning more about the quality of life after surgery, Patrick had a change of heart.
"I shared with him the story of one of my other patients who had a lung transplant one year before, a different disease, and I was like look at her: she's hiking, she's walking with her dog, she's walking with her husband, she's not wearing oxygen," explained Bilello.
Patrick continues to focus on his road to recovery, looking forward to the future.
"I'm told it's not uncommon for people to live 10 or 20 years. Certainly, I would hope for at least 10 years," added Alexander.
Pulmonary Fibrosis is not a curable disease. The only way for patients to get help is by getting a lung transplant.