Interview with Frank Spears

Interviewed by John Asmussen on November 1, 2000

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: 

Frank Spears is a 68 year old male living in Oxford, North Carolina. Mr. Spears is a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and worked most of his life as a pilot mechanic in the air force. Mr. Spears was 53 when he was diagnosed with COPD and the reason he was given for his illness was because of his smoking habit. Mr. Spears was put on the waiting list to receive a lung in September of 1997.  He was activated in January of 1998 and received his transplant in June of 1999. Prior to his actual transplant Mr. Spears had nine dry runs, the record for all lung transplant recipients. Mr. Spears is a true success story. He received little rejection and rehabilitation for him was not very difficult. Currently at 68 Mr. Spears is in exceptional shape and doing very well with his new lung. When this interview was conducted he was 20 months out of his transplant. Mr. Spears works five days a week, four hours a day for a florist in Oxford, North Carolina. He is also very active in the Second Wind chapter in the Raleigh/Durham area and has taken an active role in mentoring possible lung transplant recipients.

Excerpts from Transcript

 

Excerpt 1 | Excerpt 2 | Excerpt 3 | Excerpt 4 | Excerpt 5

 

Excerpt 1

 

Background: 

In this excerpt Mr. Spears is talking about what he would say to someone who had to go through the same thing he did.  He answers this and continues to reflect on the whole process and the possibilities after transplant.  

 

Excerpt:

There are those people who go through and have massive amounts of trouble afterwards.  I'd still do it, I would do it again, I would recommend it to anyone. If anyone ever came and said what do you think, I'd say do it.

 

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Excerpt 2

 

Background: 

In this excerpt Mr. Spears is discussing his age and the fact that he was one of the oldest people to receive a lung transplant. The policy at Duke was that you had to be younger than 65 to be put on the list.  Mr. Spears was 67 when he received his transplant. In this quote he was talking about being on the list when he turned 65 and what was going to happen to him.

 

Excerpt:

They told me, "Once you are on, we will not take you off" and they kept trying. See that, they had every reason in the world to say, "Well, hey you are too old and we can't find one."  But they never stopped, they never stopped trying.

 

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Excerpt 3

 

Background: 

In this excerpt Mr. Spears is talking about his mindset going into surgery.  Mr. Spears had a very optimistic attitude about the whole process and had a lot of faith going into the transplant. In this quote he is talking about the last time he saw his wife before being wheeled into surgery.

 

Excerpt:

They stopped me long enough going through the doors for her to kiss me goodbye.  All of us knew that very well could have been goodbye, and it was OK.  No matter what the outcome was, it was OK.

 

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Excerpt 4

 

Background: 

One of the most interesting things about Mr. Spears was the fact that he had 9 dry runs, the record for a lung transplant recipient. It strongly affected him with ever time his beeper went off or the possibility of a lung became available. 

 

Excerpt:

After a while it got to be comical. The first time when we got sent home it was a major let down and the more we had, the more comical it got to be.

 

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Excerpt 5

 

Background: 

In this excerpt Mr. Spears is talking about how his family coped.  He could not talk enough about how good his family and doctors were. In this quote he talks about the public image his family was portraying in the waiting room.

 

Excerpt:

The day I finally got transplanted, which was 20 months ago, I see one of the ICU nurses tell another that his family is awesome. They really were, they have been awesome. 

 

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For more information, contact Dr. Mary Jo Festle, Associate Professor of History at Elon University.

Email: festle@elon.edu

This page last updated 11/24/02