Four years after transplant, man climbs Mount Kilimanjaro with donated lung

A Pennsylvania man left the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic to raise awareness for another health issue — organ donation.David Skalski said he felt like the picture of health when he was in the U.S. Air Force in his youth.But both his lungs suddenly failed four years ago. He received a lung that was donated by a 27-year-old man who had just died.”I feel as strong as I have since post-lung transplant,” Skalski said.Skalski has been training with his donated lung for a major climb: Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.”We’re going up to 19,341 feet, so we’re definitely going to feel the altitude. But I’ve already covered two-thirds of that with what I’ve trained already, so that should be fine,” he said.Because of the pandemic, Skalski had to change his plane reservations four times.He and his daughter and hiking buddy, Elaina, finally left last week. After a week of travel, he started the climb on Monday.”I’ve been waiting for this for so long I can’t stand it. I’m like a kid at Christmas time. I’m ready to go,” Skalski said.He said the climb became much more than just a physical feat when his lung donor’s mother asked for a favor.”When Jean asked me to carry John’s ashes to the top of the mountain, it changed my whole perspective of the climb,” Skalski said.He hopes the climb raises awareness of the importance of organ donation.”80% of it’s right up here,” he said, pointing to his head. “You’ve got to think I can. It’s like the little engine that could. ‘I think I can. I think I can.’ And then you do it,” he said.Watch the video above to learn more about this story.

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A Pennsylvania man left the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic to raise awareness for another health issue — organ donation.

David Skalski said he felt like the picture of health when he was in the U.S. Air Force in his youth.

But both his lungs suddenly failed four years ago. He received a lung that was donated by a 27-year-old man who had just died.

“I feel as strong as I have since post-lung transplant,” Skalski said.

Skalski has been training with his donated lung for a major climb: Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

“We’re going up to 19,341 feet, so we’re definitely going to feel the altitude. But I’ve already covered two-thirds of that with what I’ve trained already, so that should be fine,” he said.

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Because of the pandemic, Skalski had to change his plane reservations four times.

He and his daughter and hiking buddy, Elaina, finally left last week. After a week of travel, he started the climb on Monday.

“I’ve been waiting for this for so long I can’t stand it. I’m like a kid at Christmas time. I’m ready to go,” Skalski said.

He said the climb became much more than just a physical feat when his lung donor’s mother asked for a favor.

“When Jean asked me to carry John’s ashes to the top of the mountain, it changed my whole perspective of the climb,” Skalski said.

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He hopes the climb raises awareness of the importance of organ donation.

“80% of it’s right up here,” he said, pointing to his head. “You’ve got to think I can. It’s like the little engine that could. ‘I think I can. I think I can.’ And then you do it,” he said.

Watch the video above to learn more about this story.

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