TODAY   |  August 01, 2013

Man ‘paying it forward’ after double-lung transplant

After doctors diagnosed Howard Romanoff with pulmonary fibrosis in 2007, he waited six months before receiving a double-lung transplant at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He is honored with the song “Life Is a Gift” by Kathie Lee and her songwriting partner David Friedman, sung by Broadway performer Joe Dellger.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it is time for everyone has a story. today we meet our newest contest winner. he is howard romanof. she was diagnosed with a serious illness but was fortunate enough to get a second chance at life.

>> now howard and his family are hoping to save more lives and help others. we're going to meet the rome anov family in a moment but first, here's howard 's story.

>> i was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2007 . i was otherwise healthy and a nonsmoker. i was told my lungs would stop functioning in 3 to 5 years at which point i'd require a lung transplant in order to breathe. the timing was accurate and just shy of four years after being on oxygen 24/7 for a while, i was placed on the waiting list for a life-saving double lung transplant . the six-month wait was filled with the unanswerable question, would i receive the life-saving transplant in time to save my life? the question was answered and i had a double lung transplant in august 2011 at new york presbyterian hospital , columbia university medical center in new york city . i was one of the lucky ones , as my family and i learned more about this debilitating disease, we learned about the dire shortage of available organs and the number of deaths as a result of this shortage. the limiting factor in saving lives is in many cases the lack of organs due to the low number of registered organ donors . throughout the years of my illness, surgery and recovery, we have had continued support and love from a large circle of family and friends . we feel deeply about the strength of this support and helping in my recovery and the ability to reach this point where we can now pay forward some of what we've learned from this experience. we along with our family and friends have initiated the outreach of share life. we hope this effort will inform and educate others, increase enrollment as organ donors and provide many others the opportunity to receive life-saving organ and tissue transplants.

>> that's beautifully done. and you can tell why we picked your story, howard , because it's beautifully written and your heart, i know about the lungs but your heart really shows through that whole thing as well. so --

>> and howard is here with his wife carol and their son bret and daughter alexis. great to have you all.

>> hi.

>> such a loving family.

>> i am so into this family already. how are you feeling, by the way?

>> i'm feeling great. it's -- next week will be two years, and we've had our ups and downs and adjusting medications and such, but right now i'm really, really great.

>> we didn't see a lot of pictures of you going through your treatment. and that was on purpose, wasn't it?

>> you want to tell us about that?

>> we felt very strongly that that period when howard wasn't well, we just -- we needed to hunker down and take care of howard and take care of ourselves. and get through it.

>> be positive.

>> and be as positive as we could.

>> how was the waiting game , kids? i know waiting for an organ, a call about an organ must have been excruciating.

>> there was a lot that we couldn't control. and i think we really focused on just being a family. we spent a lot of quality time together in the hospital, unfortunately.

>> when you guys got the call about the organ --

>> the whole process is so emotionally and physically draining that you just rely so much on one another. and that's kind of how you --

>> amazing family. photogenic beyond belief. we've lost power but let's continue.

>> we're having a kumbaya moment. now it's time to hear the song david friedman and i wrote just for you. and here to sing it in the light --

>> oh, there is light.

>> wonderful broadway performer including scandalous, i love this man, joe delger. the song is called "life is a gift." so many things we take for granted like breathing out and breathing in so many blessings that go uncounted if we could count them where would we begin we live our days just running and racing until at last those days run out before that day that we'll all be facing will we acknowledge what life's all about life is a gift and life is a gift worth living life is a gift and life is a gift worth giving so many ways to make our lives better if we would make just one simple choice to understand we're in this together and give the gift the gift of life as we rise up and say with one voice life is a gift and life is a gift worth living life is a gift and life is a gift worth giving and so when we take our last breath we can be sure without any doubt someone will receive that wonderful gift of breathing in and breathe iing out

>>> joe delger, everybody. joe just performed "life is a gift" for howard , his wife and children. also with suscomposer extraordinaire. did you guys enjoy the song?

>> it was unbelievable. it brings you back to a lot of our experiences over the last couple of years.

>> we want to talk about your organization in just a second but we want to give you a little something. we like to give away a little prize. you don't get to spend a lot of time together as a family. we reached out to the folks at the radisson warwick hotel in philadelphia. they've given you a couple nights there. tickets on trolley tours and sightseeing. hopefully you still like each other after today.

>> tell us about your organization. that's really important to you guys.

>> well, we've started share life as a vehicle to help educate and make people aware of the severe problem in the country. there's over 118,000 people waiting for an organ today. and a new name is added to the list every ten minutes. but the problem is that 20 people die every single day because --

>> needing one.

>> -- because there aren't enough organs to go around.

>> and lungs are rare. only 20% of those will --

>> right.

>> most people only think about it when they renew a driver's license. they check whether or not you want to be an organ donor .

>> there is so information about their amazing organization. so much information about it on our website. so go to

>> and read it all. you guys are doing great work.

>> so glad you could be with us today.

>> and our website is and a lot of information there.

>> yep, we are all linked up, howard . we're family now. may not be happy about that, but we are.