Meet Sam Kirton


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My diagnosis

In the fall of 2016, I developed a persistent cough and was constantly waking up during the night. I became concerned when I was unable to exercise, something I did daily for my entire life.  At the time, I thought these changes were simply signs of getting older; however, after seeing a pulmonologist in January 2017, I learned something more serious was happening. On January 31, 2017, I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

My first thoughts were, “What is IPF, and how severe is my diagnosis?” My wife Susan and I began researching the disease and came across the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF). The PFF is the only organization solely focused on research, education, and support for individuals with pulmonary fibrosis (PF). My pulmonary care team was part of the PFF’s Care Center Network, which assured us that they were experts in treating patients with fibrotic lung diseases. The more information we received from the PFF, the more confident we became in knowing there is hope in living with and fighting this disease.

Through the PFF, I joined multiple support groups including one that was specific to pre-transplant patients. I truly believe that support groups are an undervalued resource for those living with PF and ILD. My pre-transplant support group opened my eyes to all the warning signs that I missed, indicating that there was something seriously wrong with my lungs. The fact that I was not able to continue to exercise or had restless nights were symptoms of my body not receiving the oxygen I so desperately needed.


Receiving my life-changing call

With the guidance I received from my care team and assistance from my PFF support group, I was able to follow a strict regimen that allowed me to be considered for a lung transplant. In March of 2021, I was finally approved to be listed for transplant.

On July 9, 2021, we received the call that would forever change my life. There were lungs available to me, and it was time for my transplant. At the time, COVID-19 was still a threat, so only Susan could come to the hospital with me. When I finally woke up after my surgery, I took my first unassisted breaths, and Susan breathed a sigh of relief.

There is not much I remember from the ten days I was in the hospital after my transplant, but what I do vividly recall is how incredible it felt to get out of bed and walk to the chair in my room. I understood then that I had to be responsible for the gift that I was given. This is a responsibility that I still carry with me to this day.


My responsibility

This sense of obligation has led me to volunteer for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. I now co-lead the PFF Lung Transplant Community Support Group, and I launched a support group near my home in Virginia for those living with PF called “Coffee Among Friends.” We need to fund the research to understand these diseases better so the PFF can expand its support to those living with them. Please donate today to help find a cure for this disease.

I know that I would not be here if it were not for the support and guidance that I received from the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. I have been given a second chance at making memories with family and friends. Because of this precious gift, I understand the responsibility I have to the pulmonary fibrosis community. I believe each of us has a responsibility to make a difference, and by working together as one team, we will be unstoppable.


Sam Kirton
PFF Ambassador & PFF Support Group Leader