Hip-hop minister recovering after rare double lung transplant

MIAMI (WSVN) - MIAMI (WSVN) — A South Florida hip-hop minister is going home after receiving a life-saving double lung transplant, something he calls, “a miracle.”

Joel Stigale is a minister at Catalyst Hip Hop, a place where hip-hop is used to promote a life without drugs, crime and violence.

But last fall, life took a spin for this minister.

“I knew I had something going on with my lungs, but we didn’t have a diagnosis,” said Stigale. “I used to do gang ministry, so life and death was always a reality, but this became very real because it wasn’t something I could control.”

Joel started off with a lingering cough. But one day, he started having trouble breathing as he climbed up a hill, and that is when he realized something serious was going on. “It got to the point to walk three feet was like running a marathon. It would take me a half hour to recover.”

Stigale was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). It’s a disease with no known cause or cure.

His lungs were working at just 20 percent.

“It’s a fairly common disease, actually,” said UHealth transplant surgeon Dr. Matthias Loebe. “More patients die from IPF than from breast cancer every year, but it’s not known in the community because these patients die very quickly.”

The only cure is a lung transplant.

“So it’s a real fight against the clock,” added Loebe.

But just 10 days after getting on the National Transplant Waiting List, a donor was found.

“Rough but a blessing. A miracle,” said Stigale.

Immediately, UHealth surgeons were able to perform the rare, double lung transplant. “when we first consulted him, the patient was so weak, he couldn’t even squeeze his wife’s hand,” UHealth rehabilitation doctor Dr. Seema Khurana.

Now, seven months later, he’s holding his wife’s hand and ready to go back to his ministry. But his family at Catalyst Hip Hop beat him to it in true hip-hop style, right outside Jackson Memorial Hospital.

From here, Stigale will have to come back for follow ups, but he’s expected to live a long, healthy life.

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