Transplant Patient Gives Back

Published: November 21st, 2013

Category: Patient Stories

Pete Schwob and Daniel Best

Pete Schwob, who received a lung transplant in 2005 at UF Health Shands Hospital, with Daniel Best, who co-heads the Longwood Rehab Charity Golf Tournament with Pete.

When Pete Schwob was 9 years old, he began spitting up blood. For no known reason, the capillaries in his alveoli (hollow cavities in the lungs) were bursting and destroying the air sacks in his lungs.

By the time he was in his mid-30s, he started experiencing shortness of breath. As a physically active person, he thought he was merely falling out of shape. When he turned 40 and his breaths grew shorter, he decided to visit his doctor.

A pulmonary function test revealed damage to his lungs. He was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary haemosiderosis (a lung disease of unknown cause that is characterized by alveolar capillary bleeding) which was keeping him from doing his favorite activities like golf, swimming and racquet ball.

“Imagine running up the stadium 10 times and then reaching the top,” he said, “that’s what it felt like—the struggle of feeling like I just couldn’t go.”

His local pulmonologists recommended he visit UF Health Shands for a possible transplant. He consulted with Dr. Maher Baz and underwent a double lung transplant in 2005 by Dr. Edward Staples.

“The surgery itself was relatively easy for me. The hard part was the labored breathing prior to the transplant,” he said. “In a nutshell, if you needed a transplant, you would want to go to Dr. Staples and Dr. Baz. They’re smart guys and they know what they are doing.”

In the eight years since the successful transplant, Pete says he is back to great physical shape, perhaps the best since age 9. With better breathing and stamina, he is back to enjoying his fitness hobbies.

“Here I am today with two good lungs from a great match. I can function; I can work out, play golf; I won the transplant Olympics medal in swimming,” he said. “I was one of the lucky ones. I made it through quickly and was up and rolling.”

As Pete felt better, he developed an urge to help others. He conducted sales training presentations to companies and decided that offering his services free of charge would allow him to help transplant patients. “I would ask them to just write a check to the UF Health Shands Transplant Center fund for whatever amount they thought my training was worth,” he recalled.

While he was doing his sales presentations, he continued to stay physically active. He would often see his physical therapist, work out buddy and golf partner, Daniel Best, who had done a lot of fundraising for breast cancer. They tossed around ideas about different fundraisers they could start, until they both agreed a golf tournament would be ideal.

When they were deciding where to donate the money, Pete remembered his hospital roommate, a 17-year-old whose parents couldn’t afford a hotel and slept in the car and waiting room. He decided any funds he could raise would be given to assist patients and their families to help pay for housing.

“I thought of the people who can’t get a hotel because they don’t have the funds,” he said. “Most of the time the caregivers and patients are near Shands for six weeks, but some have had to stay another two or three more months before they can go home. I saw a need there and figured let’s do a tournament.”

Now in its fourth year, the Longwood Rehab Charity Golf Tournament has raised $30,000 for UF Health Shands Hospital. With 84 golfers competing in last year’s event, it is steadily growing in funds raised and participants.

The fourth tournament, which is scheduled for an 8:30 shotgun start on April 5, will take place at Sweetwater Golf & Country Club in Apopka. Even though it is months away, Pete said they expect “a lot of golfers” and more support for the patients and families at UF Health.

“I figured I’m lucky to be playing golf,” Pete said, “so why not do a tournament to help others?”

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Longwood Rehab Charity Golf Tournament.