CHICAGO (WLS) -- After years of failing health, Patrick Halko is thankful to be improving and giving thanks for being alive on this Thanksgiving.
Halko, 31, is recovering from a double-lung transplant. Every day, he's gaining strength and endurance while being put through the paces at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
"A few days ago I did 12 stairs, and the next day I did 48 stairs," Halko said.
But three weeks ago, Halko said he was on his death bed, suffering from a series of health complications.
Six years ago, doctors discovered he had a rare disorder similar to Leukemia.
"Basically, they looked at me like I was a ghost," Halko said. "They couldn't believe I was even walking in there. I walked in smiling."
As a treatment, he underwent a stem cell transplant, but it wasn't a good match. An infection slowly destroyed his lungs.
"For the last five years, every single day was the worst day of my life," he said. "You wouldn't believe the amount of pain -- it was 24/7."
Halko's last hope was a double-lung transplant and doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital worked quickly get him the help he needed.
"He was quite bad," recalls Dr. Ankit Bharat, of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "He was on full vent support. He was sedated, he was paralyzed at that point in order to keep his oxygenation."
Halko was one of the hospital's riskier surgeries, but it was a success.
Soon after, he was able to breathe without the help of an oxygen tank. His progress is called remarkable.
According to his doctors, Halko is on his way to a better quality of life.
"Right now, every day is the best day of my life, no matter what happens from here on, every single day is the best day of my life," Halko said.
Man thankful to be alive after risky double-lung transplant
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