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Dog trainer on second wind with new lungs

Slight breathlessness while walking was the first sign something was wrong for lung transplant recipient Paul Palin.

Now, Mr Palin is happy his life is “going to the dogs”.

Earlier this year, after a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and a lung transplant, the 54-year-old engine driver and dog breeder thought his days of showing dogs was over.

However, four months after his transplant, Mr Palin was back in the show ring and keeping pace with one of his excitable Brittanys, a French breed of bird-hunting dog.

“Getting back into the show ring so soon was me proving to myself I could do it,” Mr Palin said ahead of World Lung Day on 25 September.

“You have to have that mindset. You have to be determined to get through the recovery phase and be able to take some of the setbacks.”

After four years of coping with a worsening autoimmune disorder, Mr Palin is looking to the future thanks to his transplant team at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital and the West Moreton Health Pulmonary Gym Rehabilitation team in Ipswich.

“I suffered from IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis), which is a genetic disease,” he said.

“It attacks people in their late 40s and early 50s, as a lot of autoimmune diseases do.”

Mr Palin was celebrating his 50th birthday in Hawaii in 2016 when he first noticed a slight breathlessness while walking. Back in Australia, he went to see a doctor who referred him to the Prince Charles Hospital.

When a transplant looked inevitable, Mr Palin was referred closer to his Ipswich home for strength training at the West Moreton Health Pulmonary Rehabilitation Gym.

“One of the conditions of the transplant is that you have to have leg strength,” Mr Palin said.

“I was on the bikes and treadmill to increase my strength – and it worked.”

The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Gym offers tailored workouts for people recovering from illnesses of the heart or lung or preparing for major heart or lung surgery, as in Mr Palin’s case.

The holistic approach to heart and lung health is available by GP referral.

By the time Mr Palin completed his final round of gym on Christmas Eve last year, his lung capacity was at 40%.

A week later, he was officially on the list for a lung transplant.

On 4 March 2020, Mr Palin was told there was a donor and the next day he got a new set of lungs.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but I was within weeks of not being a part of my family,” he said.

“Now everyone tells me how good I look. I feel good too, and I go to the doctor every six weeks rather than weekly.”

Mr Palin brings his positive attitude to the cardiac gym and says he is happy to be “back doing weights with the girls”.

“Jo, Nadia and all the girls down there have been great,” he said.

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How are your lungs performing?

If you have concerns about your lung health, a trip to your GP is the first step. Your GP can perform a spirometry test, which measures how well your lungs perform.

To keep your lungs healthy, do not inhale anything other than oxygen and be proactive in preventing lung damage. Protect yourself from pollution and harmful substances, such as cigarette smoke.

Exercise your lungs regularly and make an appointment with your GP, if you have a cough that lasts more than three weeks.

Most importantly, know what is normal for you. If something doesn’t feel right, speak to your GP.

For more information, visit the Lung Foundation website.

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