BY RICK FOSTER The Sun Chronicle
NORTH ATTLEBORO - Two years ago, Tom Mournighan faced long odds for survival as the victim of pulmonary fibrosis, a rare condition that was gradually destroying the capacity of his lungs.
Recently, though, Mournighan beat the odds through a successful double-lung transplant that is giving the former auto mechanic a new lease on life and loyal friends an opportunity to rejoice. To celebrate - and raise funds to help Mournighan and his family overcome financial burdens stemming from his treatment - several friends are organizing a benefit concert at the Blackstone nightclub in Pawtucket Feb. 7.
Mournighan's friends even formed a group called Operation Breathe Easy to provide assistance and publish information about the disease.
The evening of rock music, dancing and fundraising raffles will star Mournighan's long-time friends Bob Kadlec, Brian "Brain" Cabral, Eric Higgins and John Stone, members of the rock band Stoner.
The band, which had a four-year-run as a popular local club attraction, hasn't performed as a group in 15 years but is getting back together especially for the concert says Higgins. Paul Thibeault, a friend of Mournighan's, said the North Attleboro resident received his double-lung transplant in November at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Mournighan tolerated the surgery well, but faces a lengthy period of recuperation. Previously, declining lung function had forced Mournighan to use an oxygen bottle to breathe.
Currently, Mournighan is spending a week in Pittsburgh for follow-up treatment, giving Thibeault and others an opportunity to promote what they hope will be a surprise party in Mournighan's honor.
Mournighan was the subject of a feature story in the Sun Chronicle in 2007 in which the North Attleboro resident spoke of efforts to educate the public about the rare and crippling disease.
About 200,000 people in the United States suffer from pulmonary fibrosis, which causes scarring and inflammation on the interior of the lungs. The scarring produces a thickening of the lung tissue, which cripples the ability of cells to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream.
Mournighan began noticing shortness of breath while performing routine yard chores. An exhaustive series of tests and a biopsy confirmed pulmonary fibrosis. According to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Web site, researchers aren't certain what causes the disease, but note associations with inhaled environmental or occupational pollutants, cigarette smoking, radiation or pre-existing diseases.
During the period of Mournighan's illness friends have held a number of fundraisers and special events aimed at helping their friend, including an auto show, raffles and a dog show.
The Feb. 7 fundraiser will begin 7 p.m. at The Blackstone, 1005 Main St., Pawtucket. A donation of $5 is requested at the door. Additional information is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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