Rory McCue’s life changed when he was 20.
In 2003, McCue was on the precipice of launching
his adult life. He was healthy, athletic and a little
more than a year away from graduating from college.
All of that changed in a single evening during a fire
in his fraternity house.
Suffering from extreme smoke inhalation, he was
in a hospital in Springfield, Ill., for eight weeks, five
of them on a ventilator. Even after he was released,
he never fully recovered. He experienced shortness
of breath constantly, and because of recurrent
infections, both of his lungs were scarred.
“In the blink of an eye, I went from being on top of the
world in so many ways, to living the life of a frail shut-in
wearing an oxygen mask 24 hours a day,” says McCue.
McCue admits he was afraid of having to live the rest
of his life this way. But he was even more afraid of the
alternative–a lung transplant. His local physician began
encouraging him to contact the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center. McCue did
visit and was even evaluated in fall 2004, but it was
2007 before he agreed to have his name placed on
the transplant list.
Although McCue was often sick and had a few scares
and hospitalizations, he took himself off the transplant
list in 2009. “I think I was still reeling from the whole
accident and my heart just wasn’t in it.”
Seven years passed since the fire and all of his friends
had moved on. Wanda Panus, RN, his pre-transplant
coordinator at Barnes-Jewish, and the rest of the
transplant team knew the transplant was right for McCue
but they also knew it was necessary for the patient
to make that decision. “Understandably, Rory was
afraid to go through with the transplant for fear of the
unknown,” says Panus.
With so much working against him, McCue said it came
down to a quality-of-life issue. “The hope of having
a better life outweighed the fear and uncertainty
of a transplant. I was ready to see what the world had
in store for me and I was going to make it or fail with
that decision,” says McCue.
In August 2010, McCue decided it was time to be
reactivated on the transplant list. Eleven months later,
he got the call from Barnes-Jewish that it was time for
the transplant. “It’s funny because in some ways that
day is so vivid and clear in my mind and in other ways,
it is just a blur,” he says.
Rory McCue’s life changed again when he was 28.
On July 14, 2011, McCue received two lungs. McCue’s
right lung was not as bad as the left but physicians were
concerned the right lung would infect the new one if both
In the blink of an eye, McCue went from a life of no hope
and desperation to one with unlimited possibilities.
“It has been a complete 180,” he says. Before the transplant,
McCue admits he avoided stairs like the plague. In April
2012, he was hiking in the Rocky Mountains.
McCue is extremely grateful to the entire transplant
team at Barnes-Jewish as well as the nurses on unit
7100, thoracic surgery, who cared for him after the
transplant. “Most importantly,” he says, “I’m thankful
and appreciate the decision that a family had to make
that night. It has given me all that I have now.”