Don Bird is a 48-year-old handyman and married father of three from Geelong, Victoria, Australia. He also is a phrenic nerve paralysis patient, preparing to journey to the United States for a groundbreaking procedure—phrenic nerve transplant—to be performed by Dr. Matthew Kaufman of The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction in New Jersey.
Following a serious bout of pneumonia in August 2010, Don suffered paralysis of his phrenic nerve, a large nerve in the chest that controls the diaphragm, which is integral to breathing. The condition also caused his right lung to deflate and other internal organs to shift, leaving him chronically short of breath and at great risk for recurring pneumonia, infection and inflammation. Without Dr. Kaufman’s surgical intervention, Don’s lungs will become too scarred and future episodes of pneumonia will be untreatable.
Phrenic nerve transplant is not available in Australia. Here in the United States, Dr. Kaufman pioneered the innovative procedure and is currently the only known surgeon in the country to perform it. To date, he has done approximately 40 of these operations, with an 85% success rate in reversing the paralysis. He feels strongly that Don is a good candidate for phrenic nerve transplant, which will increase Don’s lung function and allow him to lead a normal, more active lifestyle. Don’s wife, Kylie, learned of Dr. Kaufman and his life-saving surgery while researching treatment options for Don on the Internet.
According to Dr. Matthew Kaufman, “Cases of phrenic nerve paralysis like Don Bird come to The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction from around the country and the world. I am proud of the fact that our reputation is international, and that I have personally been privileged to make a positive impact on so many people’s lives. Our team of physicians and health care professionals is dedicated to treating individuals with breathing difficulties due to phrenic nerve paralysis, and also offers groundbreaking treatment for many other types of paralysis and nerve injuries.”
To raise funds for Don’s trip and treatment, family and friends have established The Don Bird Foundation (www.donbirdfoundation.org.au). Through various events and raffles, the foundation has raised approximately $53,000 toward its goal of $100,000 by October 2011. It’s truly become a family affair, with Don’s 13-year-old son, Rylan, and father-in-law, Ray McNamara, cycling 1000 km from Sydney to Geelong to assist with fundraising. Don is scheduled to come to the United States on October 30, accompanied by his 16-year-old daughter, Remingtyn, and mother-in-law, Kerry McNamara, and have Dr. Kaufman perform the surgery on November 4.
“I cannot go untreated, as I continue to have pneumonia and chest infections every six to seven weeks due to my reduced lung capacity and function,” says Don, just released from the hospital after yet another bout of pneumonia. “I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me and my family. I am looking forward to the operation, as I have missed out on lots of activities I did prior to this illness and want to return to work as soon as I am able.”