SJF Website banner_Donor Stories_Mike Spradlin Sara Martz

Colorado couple support transplant patients through charity golf event

It started after feeling a little too winded on a hike. Then, a few days later, struggling for breath on the golf course. Mike Spradlin began to worry. He sensed that something wasn’t quite right. 

It bothered him enough that on a visit to his doctor, who was examining a knee issue, he mentioned it. Before he knew it he was at the pulmonologist being scanned. 

What they found was that Mike had an incurable lung disease, a type of pulmonary fibrosis that robbed his lungs of critical capacity. 

“Essentially something that had entered my lungs had caused my immune system to go into overdrive, producing collagen over and over until that piece of lung was no longer functioning,” he explained. In less than a year he had gone from 100 percent lung capacity to just 31 percent, making him dependent on supplemental oxygen to breathe. 

Couple moves to Phoenix in hopes of lung transplant

Mike, and his partner, Sara Martz, knew it was time to consider a transplant – but how to begin that process was another issue. Through a combination of serendipity and careful research the Grand Junction, Colo.-based couple found Dignity Health Norton Thoracic Institute in Phoenix, Ariz. However, to be on the transplant list one requirement dictated that they live within a three-hour drive of the transplant center. So they moved to Phoenix and waited. 

Mike’s new lungs were transplanted on April 29, 2021. The surgery and aftercare were remarkable, Mike says, crediting the expert surgeons and staff, the incredible support of his network, and his own “warrior mentality.”

“Mike and I still to this day get a warm fuzzy feeling every time we walk through the door of that hospital,” Sara said. “Everybody from the person who changes your sheets to your surgeons were so incredibly kind. It felt like home. It felt so safe to be there.”

NoMoO2 becomes an iconic slogan of support

Before the surgery, Sara had t-shirts made for friends and family with the slogan “NoMoO2” on them - dreaming of the day when Mike would no longer need an oxygen tank to breathe. She asked that family and friends wear the shirts on transplant day and send photos and videos to support Mike. 

Following the surgery the couple were so overwhelmed by gratitude for all of the help they had received along the way that they wanted to do something to give back to the hospital and to support other people going through similar situations. They formed a nonprofit and called it NoMoO2. 

SJF Website banner_Donor Stories_Mike Spradlin

In April 2022 they held a golf tournament raising more than $20,000 and donated the money to St. Joseph’s Foundation to be used to help families cover expenses related to their transplant experience that aren’t covered by health insurance.

“We moved to Phoenix. We had to maintain a second home. For so many people, just to visit the clinic, there is gas, hotels, food, all of which add up. We wanted to be able to help people with that,” Mike said. “We are thrilled that we can give back in this way for people going through this struggle.”

Ross Bremner, MD, PhD, executive director of the Norton Thoracic Institute, said the donation from NoMoO2 meets a critical need for many. 

SJF Website banner_Donor Stories_Mike Spradlin

“Donations like Mike and Sara’s help us extend the comprehensive care approach of the Norton Thoracic Institute that provides treatment for all of a patient's needs, not just the medical and physical ones.” he said. “This is the type of care that sets Norton apart and has earned it a reputation of excellence.”

The second annual golf tournament was held in April 2023, with an even bigger turnout and raising well over $20,000, again donated to St. Joseph’s. Mike said they are already planning for 2024 and hope to continue to find ways to support this cause and the families experiencing transplants.

Grateful for every day and every breath

Mike is now 28-months post-transplant and says he is more or less “living a very normal life.” He goes to the gym a few times each week, is back on the golf course and recently even went SCUBA diving. He is back at home in Colorado, but still visits the hospital every 60-90 days for check ups and likely will need to do that for the rest of his life. 

“I’m so, so grateful to have a life and to have had a combination of generosity, educated surgeons and expert aftercare that I have had,” he said.

He said he’s grateful, too, to have a “powerful caretaker” in Sara who helps with so much from managing appointments and medications to keeping family informed and keeping their three restaurants in Colorado thriving.  

“Some mornings you wake up and you forget, if only for a second, that you had a transplant. But then you take a breath,” he said. 

If you are interested in donating to the Norton Thoracic Institute at St. Joseph’s in support of transplant patients and their families, please contact St. Joseph’s Foundation at 602.406.1038 or donate here.

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