Man needing double lung transplant focused on son

Man is one of 82 people in Michigan and some 1,700 nationwide awaiting transplant

By Louise Knott Ahern
Lansing State Journal

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Most days, it’s all Roger Adams can do to walk from the living room to the kitchen.

Other days, he can make it to the garden in his backyard, where an oasis of vegetables and flowers grow.

Either way, Adams can never really predict when the wave will hit — the dizziness, the fainting, the complications of having two lungs that don’t work.

The 54-year-old Lansing man suffers from severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and is one of 82 people in Michigan and about 1,700 nationwide awaiting double lung transplants.
To help with medical bills and other expenses, his neighbors and fellow church members are raising money through a pancake dinner and an ongoing bake sale in which Adams — a former baker for a restaurant — makes most of the baked goods.

He absolutely must survive this, Adams said. Not for himself, but for his 12-year-old son, Jeffry.

Three years ago, Jeffry’s mother and Adams’ wife, Kim, died from breast cancer. Eight months earlier, Adams’ son and Jeffry’s brother, Mark, died at age 28. Four years before that, the family lost another son, Jeffry’s brother, Matt, at the age of 19. Both men took their own lives.

There’s another son, Mitch, who lives in Dallas.

“Everything I do now is for Jeffry,” Adams said, his fingers playing with the tube to his portable oxygen tank. “The one thing I always tell him is he has a lot of angels looking out for him. But I can’t imagine ... I mean, he can’t lose his entire family by the age of 12.”

Adams was diagnosed with COPD in 2010, just a few months after his wife’s death. He’d been suffering from shortness of breath for the better part of three years but it took a freak accident for doctors to discover the extent of the damage to his lungs.

Adams passed out in his hallway one morning from lack of oxygen. As he fell, he struck his dog’s crate and punctured a lung. Follow-up tests during his recovery revealed that his oxygen intake is only 20 percent, which means that with every breath he takes, his body exhales most of what he needs.

Doctors consider anything below 60 percent to be insufficient.

Adams’ doctor handed him some paperwork and told him to head to the Social Security office.

“’You’re officially retired,’ “ Adams recalled the doctor saying.

He was briefly placed on the waiting list for donor lungs a year ago, but a glitch in the system forced him to wait another year until he could qualify for Medicare benefits. He was receiving too much money from Social Security benefits last year to qualify for Medicaid — the federal health program for the poor — which meant he would’ve had to find a private insurance agency to pay for the nearly $1 million surgery.

Adams had no choice but to wait. He’s still waiting.

“I’m hoping to be back on the list anytime,” Adams said.

“The most amazing thing about Roger,” said his friend, Cheryl Swager, “is that he gives all of this away.”

She and two other friends stood inside the greenhouse in Adams’ backyard where rows of basil flourish alongside pots of flowers and vegetables.

The tomatoes did well this year. So did the peppers. Jeffry did a lot of the work with his dad’s expertise behind him. This summer, they took tub after tub of vegetables to their church to donate.
Few people knew about the struggle he and his son were enduring, said Monica Wood, whose son goes to school with Jeffry.

When they heard what was happening, they came up with the idea of a bake sale — one that would allow Adams to put his recipes to use and to feel fully involved.

They call it Baking for Bucks and take orders for all kinds of goods — cookies, pies, cupcakes and cake pops. Wood makes some of them, but most are created by Adams.
They’re also hosting a pancake dinner fundraiser Friday.

Adams said he tries to laugh every day.

The alternative is just sitting around thinking about things, and that never leads anywhere good.

A lung transplant will give him another 10 years probably. He doesn’t really make a lot of plans.

Except this.

“I want to do more,” he said, “with Jeffry.”