Mickey Walker of Sylvester (pictured right) is breathing easier these days following a very successful transplant surgery; he received two lungs after struggling for years to breathe. See his story below:
Joe Ann Walker expresses recent events regarding her husband’s health is nothing short of a miracle. Mickey Walker became ill in 2000 with pneumonia in both his lungs. “After it was over, the doctor said he didn’t think he was going to get [Mickey] through it,” Joanne said. “Both lungs were damaged really bad,” she said adding it grew worse each year.
Mickey was forced to close his business, Sylvester Air Care, Inc. in 2007, after 12 years of operation, due to his health issues. By December of 2010 Joe Ann said, “It was at the stage nothing could be done; he was in stage COPD.”
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe; ‘progressive’ meaning it only gets worse over time. A doctor at Emory Hospital eventually asked Mickey how he would feel about a lung transplant. He answered immediately, ‘yes’.
Mickey had become unable to do many simple things he enjoyed before his illness such as fishing. He had gotten to the point it was impossible to go outside of his home without gasping for air. He was put on constant oxygen use in 2010 and also got a motorized scooter to move about. “It was as if he had been freed,” Joe Ann said. He was able togo down to the pond and enjoy fishing. Of course Joe Ann said he spent more time rigging the fishing rods of neighborhood children than actually fishing. He loves to be around the children she said. Laughing she recollects one day a child came to her door asking ’Can Mr. Mickey come out to play?’
By March the couple was making frequent trips to Atlanta for the interviewing process and in June they remained at the hospital for three days while testing was done. Besides his lungs, Joanne said everything checked out and it was determined Mickey was a candidate for the lung transplant. Two meetings were held between surgeons to discuss the double transplant procedure. Joe Ann said it was determined it wasn’t possible to replace one lung at a time. “If they put a good lung in, the body would not cooperate and use that good lung; because it was dependant on that which is natural.” She said it would have been a wasted effort. “That’s how bad his lungs were.”
On July 14th Mickey was placed on the transplant list. “We figured it would be at least a year,’ Joanne said. Even more surprising, it would be only 12 days following placement on the list that Mickey received his transplant. Joe Ann said Mickey never showed any reluctance to have the surgery done. “He never said, ‘I wonder if I made the right decision’. He looked forward to having that transplant from Day-1… I think that’s why when he went in for that surgery he was ready and he was ready to accept whatever, and he just did great.” Mickey was dismissed from the hospital Tuesday. He is recovering at the Mason Transplant Guest House. Regardless of everything he has suffered, Jo Anne said her husband has always remained upbeat and kept a good sense of humor.
There has been numerous times Joe Ann thought about how someone had to die in order for a transplant to save her husband’s life. “I remember I was sitting in the hospital last week and it was like 5-days after [the surgery] and we were just delighted. I just happened to think ‘we’re happy 5-days out and they’re still mourning 5-days out’… I do pray for that family.”
Mickey, Joe Ann and their son Brad Walker of Albany will be one family of many to attest to the significance in choosing to be an organ donor. To find out more information regarding becoming an organ donor, click the link. http://www.organdonor.gov/Default.asp
Although the Walker family has health insurance, there has been a great deal of expense. Joe Ann is traveling quite a bit to keep up her business in Sylvester, prescription co-pay charges are adding up, not ot mention costs not covered by insurance. If you would like to help, an account has been set up for the family at Sylvester Banking. Business or individual donations can be made at the bank under account: Jo Ann Walker for the Benefit of Mickey Walker.
A Bike Night will also be held on August 27th at PMS Coffee café in Sylvester with a local chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA) to raise money for the couple. More details to come.
Mickey pictured before his illness slowed him down during a Worth County Historical Society field trip with his wife Joe Ann. (Photos submitted)