Interviewee Updates

  • Frank Avila – Frank was interviewed in Burlington, North Carolina in November 4, 2002. Updates would be appreciated.
  • Randall Benifield – After a very long wait, Randall received a transplant on August 16, 2001; unfortunately, things didn’t go well. He had a stroke and died September 18, 2001. WRAL ran a story, “Racing Against Time, Man Waits at Top of Transplant List” about his wait for a transplant.
  • Harold Blaise – Harold was interviewed in Mebane, North Carolina, November 19, 1998. Updates would be appreciated.
  • Steve Brunson was interviewed in July 2, 1997. After his transplant, he went back to work. It is believed that in 2009 he was still working as a financial analyst for Texas A and M University and was grateful for the difference the transplant made in his life.
  • M. L. Bryan – updates would be appreciated.
  • Thomas Bullard – It is believed that he still lives in Burlington, NC, but updates would be appreciated.
  • Steven Bunsen – Steve had alpha-1 and was transplanted at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in 1992. He served many – in the army National Guard, his church, community school board, and the lung transplant community as an officer numerous times for the Second Wind Lung Transplant Association. Married to Peggy and the father of four daughters, he lived 18 years post-transplant and died in September 2010.
  • Matt Byrd – Matt lived in Chapel Hill, NC after his transplants. Updates would be appreciated.
  • Jimmy Carroll – Jimmy reported in summer 2011 that 10 years after his transplant, “There are bumps in the road here and there, but overall, I’m doing well.”
  • Tim Choquette – as of December 2009, when WRAL did a story on the 15th anniversary of his living lobar transplant, Tim was doing well and living with his wife and children in Apex, NC. You can watch the story, “Transplant survivor beating the odds” and hear how appreciative he is of his health and his brothers who donated parts of their lungs.  You can also see video from the 1994 story done 2 weeks after his transplant.
  • Sharolyn Converse – Sharolyn was interviewed while she was on the waiting list. She did receive a transplant in early January, 1999, but updates would be appreciated.
  • David Courtney – updates would be appreciated.
  • Karen Couture – Transplanted in July 2002, Karen has led a full life since her transplant. Among other things, she wrote a very useful book, The Lung Transplant Handbook, which has helped many in the lung transplant community go through the process. She has formed a great relationship with the family of her donor, Justin Richards. She has competed in swimming events numerous times in the Transplant Games. She also contributed support and photos for the book which are much appreciated!
  • Danelle DeCiantis – In July 2010, Airways newsletter reported that Danelle celebrated her tenth lung transplant anniversary. Other information would be appreciated.
  • Pauline DeLuca – updates would be appreciated.
  • Kathleen Feeney – updates would be appreciated.
  • Tom Fereday – updates would be appreciated.
  • Bob Festle – Bob celebrated the fifth anniversary of his double lung transplant in fall 2000, but died in June 2001 of complications from chronic rejection. He lived well for those 5 1/2 years – finishing college, becoming a teacher, beginning a graduate program, and being loved by and loving students, family, and friends.
  • Karen Fitchett – Karen was known by many in the lung transplant community as someone eager to give support and who insisted people must “Never Give Up!” She died in early January 2002.
  • Kathryn Flynn – Kathryn was on oxygen for 8 years before her transplant. She said that after her transplant she had more of a sense of direction, and she certainly has contributed much to many people – not simply to her family (including husband and daughter) but by volunteering after she learned American Sign Language and by giving her time to many in the transplant community (through service to Second Wind members and transplant candidates and recipients locally and nationally). She currently raises money for transplant research through the Lung Transplant Foundation and works at the NC School for the Blind. Her support for this interview and project has been substantial.
  • J. Wayne Foster – updates would be appreciated.
  • Rosalie Gallogly – updates would be appreciated.
  • Howell Graham – Howell has been extremely fortunate since his double lung transplant in 1990, and he willingly shares his story. You can read “Early double-lung transplant patient celebrates 20 years of breathing free” or “It’s a go” or listen to a Story Corps interview Howell did with his mother. Currently he is married and is a real estate appraiser in Wilmington, NC. His interview was one of the first for this project, and he also contributed photos for the book.
  • Melodie Greene – updates would be appreciated.
  • Ruth Hall had some health struggles at the time she was interviewed in 2002; updates would be appreciated.
  • Don Hawkins – At one point Don was a volunteer for his local organ procurement organization, but more recent updates would be appreciated.
  • Kelly Helms died in October 2001 at the age of 37. She received a lung transplant in 1991 and flourished afterwards, working full-time in Jacksonville, teaching fitness, and participating in swimming and track at the Transplant Games. She served as a mentor for others in the transplant community, volunteered for TRIO, and was given a “Making Lives Better” award by the National Kidney Foundation. She developed chronic rejection and was listed for re-transplant and died 9 months after the second transplant.
  • Paula Huffman – At the time Paula was interviewed in October 31, 1998, she was on the waiting list. She received her double lung transplant in March 1999. Twelve years after her transplant, she explains that she has had some problems with infections and skin cancers and is more limited than she used to be (frequently participating in sports). She now lives with her daughter and thinks they work together well. She reported that “all in all, things are pretty good” and “I still marvel at my blessings and good fortune.”
  • Lori Hughes – A friend reported Lori was still alive in summer 2011, but more recent updates would be appreciated.
  • Jasper Martin– Jasper received a double lung transplant in 2003 and then was volunteering with Carolina Donor Services trying to raise awareness of the need for and benefits of organ donation.
  • Cheryl Maxham – Cheryl reported in 2007 that 10 and a half years after her transplant she had moved to Florida, was still working for the airlines, and “doing quite well.”
  • May Parker – It has been a decade since we heard from May, and at the time she was struggling physically and listed for a second transplant. Updates would be appreciated.
  • Kimberly Pearce (“Kimmie”) – We interviewed Kimmie in July 1997, and at that time she was having problems post-transplant, though she still felt better than before her transplant.  She died less than two years after the interview. Her twin sister, Kristie, died from Cystic Fibrosis before Kimberly’s transplant. The family moved to Chapel Hill, NC, to make it easier to get transplants for Kimmie and her brother Brett, who also had CF.
  • Brett Pearce – Brett got his double lung transplant in September 1997. He fulfilled his dream of attending medical school. At the time he died in September, 2002, he was a third-year medical student; he contracted a virus treating pediatric patients.
  • Mary Peters was interviewed in Ferndale, Maryland, November 26, 2002; updates would be appreciated.
  • William “Bill” Poplett – Husband, father of two and Navy chief, Bill was a founder of the original Alpha-1 email support group  and reached out to any Alpha-1 who needed help. He received a lung transplant in February 2000. After a while he struggled with skin cancers, and he died in 2010, with his lung still going strong.  The Alpha-1 Advocacy Alliance honored Bill by naming a scholarship after him.
  • Tracy Raub – Tracy is married and in May 2011, celebrated her 16th transplant anniversary.
  • Darelene (Dare) Reitz was interviewed in Burgaw, NC, in 1998. Updates would be appreciated.
  • Laura Richards was interviewed both before her transplant in November 1998 and after it in 2002. Her cousin reported in 2005 that her native diseased lung was putting pressure on her transplanted one and had to be removed. She received a second transplanted lung from a different donor at Duke University and was released from the hospital. More recent updates would be appreciated.
  • Dana Schmidt – Since her double lung transplant, Dana has lived in Durham, NC, with her husband and enjoyed exercise, crafts, cooking and volunteer work, including serving on the Board of Directors of the Lung Transplant Foundation.
  • Mary Ellen Smith was interviewed in October 2002. Updates would be appreciated.
  • Jack Snyder received a single lung transplant in December 1998 and in Jack’s Story, his wife reported that he enjoyed every day of the seven years he lived afterwards, traveling, laughing, and loving. His native lung developed lung cancer and he died in July 2006, grateful for the extra time the transplant gave him.
  • Frank Spears – updates would be appreciated.
  • Barbara Stepp – Second Wind’s memorial page reported that Barbara died of a heart attack three and a half years after her transplant.
  • Carol Stimmel – The Fairview (MN) patient newsletter reported a recent anniversary of a transplant for Carol Stimmel. It would be nice to know if this is correct.
  • Richard Throlson – One of his friends reported that Ricky, who was funny (liked elephant jokes) and liked lots of pickles on his hamburgers, died around April 2003. He’d been taking classes at the time.
  • Jan Travioli – After her transplant, Jan worked as editor for Pathlight, a newsletter about pulmonary hypertension, and served on the Pulmonary Hypertension Association Board. Jan was a skilled jewelry maker and designed the first PHA awareness bracelet. When she died from PH in 2004, she donated her body for research.
  • Tiffany Vuncannon – a friend of hers told me that Tiffany died unexpectedly in June 2006 at age 31. The Raleigh News and Observer published a nice article, “A Life of Obstacles Courageously Battled” about Tiffany’s efforts to overcome her CF and health problems, her studies of sociology and cooking (she could make a sinful chocolate torte), and her relationship with her husband Darrel.
  • Carol White – updates would be appreciated.

4 thoughts on “Interviewee Updates

  1. Matt Byrd received his lungs November 14, 1999 at Duke. He lived in Chapel Hill during this time working at Findley Golf course until about 2005. He spent the rest of his time enjoying his many NC friends, attending three Transplant Games participating in the golf tournaments and coming home for the holidays and Hampton Bay Days to be with his family and friends in VA. He returned to Virginia early in 2011 with a few stays and trips back to his townhouse in NC as health would allow. He spent a week in Nags Head just two weeks before he died with his favorite Aunts Donna and Terry and their families. Matt Byrd passed away August 28, 2011.


  2. Tracy Raub celebrated 20 years this past May 11, 2015. She is single, happy and probably in the best physical condition of any woman her age, looks great and is super positive.


    1. Maybe Not! I’m celebrating 23 years this year and did I mention I am only on one drug! 🙂 Would love to talk to you 🙂 There are others like us.


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