A quilt for life

Dr. Cooke and his family receive quit from the Jacksons
Marilyn Jackson (second from right) gave a quilt to Dr. David Cooke and his family in thanks for saving the life of her husband, Jim (far right).

Posted Feb. 6, 2013

Quilts are often given to celebrate a life change such as a marriage or the birth of a baby. Marilyn Jackson’s latest quilt celebrates much more: a life saved.

On Jan. 30, she presented UC Davis cardiothoracic surgeon David Cooke with a quilt she made for his 3½ year old daughter, Audrey.

“Dr. Cooke saved my husband’s life,” said Marilyn. “I know it is impossible to truly thank him for that, but sharing my talent with someone he loves as much I love my husband is one way to try.”

Last year, Marilyn’s husband, Jim Jackson, had two procedures known as lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) to treat his emphysema. The progressive disease, which is most often attributed to smoking, causes walls of air sacs to break down, reducing lung function and oxygen throughout the body. Those with emphysema experience continuously reduced breathing capacity and mobility.

“I was in denial for a long time, so the disease was diagnosed for me in its later stage,” said Jim, a retired railroad foreman. “On good days, I felt like there was a paper bag on my head. On bad days, it felt like a plastic bag. I mostly sat and watched television with an oxygen tank.”

During LVRS, damaged lung tissue is removed, helping the remaining lung tissue work more efficiently and increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood.

“Dr. Cooke not only gave me back my life, he gave me back my life as I knew it.”
— Jim Jackson

Even though there are few other effective treatments for emphysema and no cure, LVRS is not recommended for every patient. Those whose disease is concentrated in the upper parts of their lungs and who participate in pulmonary rehabilitation, stick with a strict medication regimen and do not smoke are considered the best candidates.

“Jim was a poster child for the surgery, and we’ve both been really pleased with his outcomes,” said Cooke, a specialist in surgical treatments for lung disease. “Today, I see him less in my clinic and more at community events, speaking about his experiences and the importance of lung health.”

Cooke cautioned that even for good candidates, LVRS has post-surgical risks. One of Jim’s lungs collapsed due to an air leak following his second surgery, requiring a longer hospital stay and recovery time than expected.

Dr. Cooke and Jim Jackson
Dr. Cooke and Jim Jackson

“Air leaks are common with lung surgery, but our excellent nursing, surgical and critical-care teams anticipated and rescued him from that complication while preventing others,” said Cooke.

Today, the Jacksons say that the surgeries were worth it.

“Dr. Cooke not only gave me back my life, he gave me back my life as I knew it,” said Jim, who watched his mother’s health deteriorate until her death from emphysema in the 1980s. “I figured that would be me, too. Instead, here I am, more active than I was before the surgery. I still need oxygen, but not as much. And I never feel anymore like I have a bag on my head.”

UC Davis Health System is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 619-bed acute-care teaching hospital, a 1,000-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all. For more information, visit healthsystem.ucdavis.edu.