Transplant Survivor Honoured by Guinness

Last week, Muller received a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records confirming he is the longest living survivor of a lung transplant.

In the summer of 1987, Wolfgang Muller was given two large oxygen tanks and told by his doctors he would die if his left lung wasn't replaced by the time the tanks were empty.

Well into the second oxygen tank, a lung was found to replace the diseased organ, which was rapidly shutting down in his chest.

"Before I went on the table, the doctors told me there was a 50-50 chance Iwouldwakeupagainand then there was a 50-50 chance I would live a day or two," says Muller. "At best, I might live a year or maybe more."

Last week, Muller received a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records confirming he is the longest living survivor of a lung transplant. The official certificate reads that as of July 19, 2004, Muller had lived 16 years and 307 days after his operation on Sept. 15, 1987.

Muller received the certificate only after all the dates and medical informatio successful single-lung transplant in 1983 and the first double-lung transplan three years later.

In the fall of 1987, the German-born Calgarian travelled to the Toronto General Hospital, where the operation was performed by the Toronto Lung Transplant Group led by Dr. Joel Cooper, who had performed the world's firs could be verified.

Although the majority of Cooper's transplant patients were alive at the time of Muller's surgery, it was still a relatively new technique and some patients had died within days of the operation. But Muller was determined to survive.

"My wife had muscular dystrophy and I thought, 'I'm going to have to live t look after her,' " said Muller. "I didn't want to go yet."

Muller turned 70 on Dec. 4 and remains a spry and active senior. He has travelled as far as Hungary, Japan and Australia to compete in the World Transplant Games, an Olympic-style competition for transplant recipients which runs every two years. He's won a handful of medals in table tennis an has competed in the five-kilometre walk event.

His first wife succumbed to her illness seven years ago, and one of the couple's three children also died of muscular dystrophy.

Muller has since remarried and continues to exercise "just about" every day. He goes for daily walks and regularly plays table tennis with a club at the University of Calgary.

"I died twice during the operation, they had to revive me," said Muller. "I've had 17 years I wasn't supposed to have. I've travelled everywhere I wanted to go and lived a lot since the surgery."

Muller said he wants to encourage others to fill out donor cards because mo organs are needed.

Health Canada says 150 Canadians die every year waiting for transplant organs that don't come in time.

"I filled out my card on my licence," said Muller. "They can have anything they can use when I go."



By Sean Myers, Calgary Herald Sunday, December 26, 2004