BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — At 17 years old, Cooper Pierce received a double-lung and heart transplant. Now, he is 19 and gearing up for his sophomore year at UAB.
Early on, Pierce noticed his heart beating irregularly. Up until he was 13, he accredited his breathing problems to asthma, a misdiagnosis. Pierce said his family then took him for a checkup, where the doctor immediately noticed something was wrong.
“She listened to it and said yeah that’s an irregular regular heartbeat. She said we’d get it checked out at children’s to get an EKG,” Pierce said. “So that’s when we found out I had pulmonary hypertension, and it wasn’t asthma.”
Pulmonary hypertension requires the heart to work harder to pump blood to the lungs. It’s not common in young people. Only about 40 people a year receive double-lung transplants.
After the misdiagnosis, Pierce said he was glad to finally understand what he was up against.
“It was actually kind of comforting to be like, this is what is really going on,” Pierce said.
Pierce’s transplant went smoothly, with few complications in recovery. Now, as he prepares for his sophomore year, he’s already looking into ways to help future transplant recipients.
“I have to take medicine every day for the rest of my life because rejection is the number one problem with transplants,” he said. “So if you could print organs with somebody’s own cells, there wouldn’t be any need for medication or rejection. So that’d be pretty awesome.”
While Pierce has yet to declare a major at UAB, he is looking into career paths that involve engineering and 3D printing.
To read more about Pierce’s journey, click here.
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