Penn Medicine’s 1,500th lung transplant

The milestone transplant helped give new life to Garcia Bolton, a father, truck driver, poet, and lifelong Philadelphian.

Garcia Bolton, a 40-year-old born-and-raised Philadelphian, normally works as a commercial truck driver, spends time with his wife and son, and writes poetry. But his life changed after he developed serious breathing trouble and a lung infection in January 2022. Thinking that he had potentially contracted COVID-19 or a different virus, his first instinct was to protect his family, so he did his best to stay away from them. But he also had no energy and tried to sleep as much as he could.

Garcia Bolton.
Garcia Bolton, a lifelong Philadelphian, received Penn Medicine’s 1500th lung transplant. (Image: Penn Medicine News)

“All I did was get up to drink water, use the restroom, and go back to sleep,” Bolton says. “If I had written any poetry then, it would have read, ‘I’m exhausted, and I feel like I’m drowning.’”

A visit to the emergency department at Pennsylvania Hospital led to a COVID-negative test and a diagnosis of restrictive lung disease and an inpatient stay at the Penn Medicine Rittenhouse Good Shepherd Penn Partners long-term acute care hospital. He required oxygen all day and night. The lung infection damaged his lungs significantly, which meant that he would need a transplant in order to live.

“I never smoked or did anything intentionally that would cause damage to my lungs,” he says. “I was shocked when I found out how serious my condition was,” Bolton says.

Bolton got his lifesaving chance on June 1, 2022 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, when he became Penn’s 1,500th lung transplant patient since its first in 1991, only a few years after lung transplantation began to be practiced in a clinically standardized way. Only six other hospitals in the U.S. have performed at least 1,500 adult lung transplants, and the Penn transplant team often takes on the worst of the most complex cases, including the cases of patients where both a heart and lung transplant is required.

“We refer to our transplant providers as a team, and it fits,” says Maria M. Crespo, the medical director of the Lung Transplant Program and an associate professor of clinical pulmonary medicine. “I’m proud of our team not only because they work together and perform exceptionally but also because they take on the complex cases of patients who would be turned away at many other transplant centers. We can perform difficult transplants confidently because of the collaboration, research, and innovation at Penn.”

Read more at Penn Medicine News.