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Craig L Craig's Patient Story

“Some patients recover sooner than others, it truly depends on the individual,”

“I have been blessed or lucky to have lived! Someone is looking out for me up there. Through faith in God, loving family and friends…I have survived.”

Music has the power to transport people to another place and time. The lyrics, the melodies and the notes can lift us up in celebration or provide comfort during troubling periods. Craig Lawton felt the power of music and credits it as his lifeline through his lung transplant and recovery.

Initially diagnosed with Stage 4 emphysema at the age of 45, Craig received a new right lung in August of 2008 at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC) in Newark, NJ, an RWJBarnabas Health facility. NBIMC is the only lung transplant program in New Jersey. His diagnosis prompted him to immediately quit smoking but it was not until an additional discovery of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1), a genetic lung and liver disease, that he realized how dire the situation was and that he needed a new lung in order to survive.

Prior to the transplant, Craig was dependent on oxygen every minute of every day, including having to shower with his tank near him, so he is extremely thankful for his new lung. His left lung still suffers from the effects of emphysema as a result, Craig still relies on a nebulizer and inhaler to manage his symptoms throughout the day.

Craig credits his team at NBIMC for giving him back his life. He knew that their collective expertise, their professional demeanor and their caring nature would be the difference in his survival. He does not minimize the struggle he endured and admits it took him about 18 months to recover from the surgery. In addition to his transplant team, Craig also recognizes the support of his family and friends who helped him during this tough journey.

“Some patients recover sooner than others, it truly depends on the individual,” said Craig. “I understood that my compromised state limited my strength and energy but the transplant of my right lung which was almost completely devoid of air flow allows me to work part time and enjoy my life. I encourage those with extreme respiratory problems to get evaluated as soon as possible, get tested for Alpha-1 and if needed, be placed on the transplant list.”

Craig was lucky that his wait for a viable lung was only two weeks from the time he was placed on the list as he knows others who have had to endure far longer. He is also is forever indebted to his donor.

“I was given a gift and I don’t take that lightly,” added Craig. “I want to take care of that gift for the both of us.” Craig is still very close with his donor’s parents, thanks to this incredible bond.

Craig is proud to have been one of the first lung transplant recipients at NBIMC. “I feel better than I have felt in ten years. I tell my friends I was in a dark tunnel for a long time and the Craig I knew was gone. However, after the transplant, I got stronger each day and my spirit came back. I began to feel like the old Craig again.”

With a re-energized attitude, Craig’s musical passion resurfaced. After a year hiatus of playing guitar post-transplant due to atrophy in his fingers, his sister encouraged him to play a little each day until he got back into the groove. Craig plays electric guitar with an instrumental jam band called Old Dogz, New Tricks, performing at local clubs at the Jersey shore. His bandmates think he is playing better now than ever before.

“I’m back,” Craig says, “Really back.”