Newswise — DALLAS – Oct. 25, 2017 – Tim Ervin drew in a deep breath and flawlessly performed the National Anthem before an 18,000-plus crowd at the Dallas Mavericks game – fulfilling a lifelong dream that almost never came true.

Mr. Ervin, 59, was likely within months of death three years ago when he was put on the transplant waitlist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He was down to 35 percent of normal lung function, and simply couldn’t breathe in deeply enough to properly support his body, let alone play the trumpet.

“Those last four days before my transplant were horrible,” the Mount Pleasant music minister recalled. “I was tied to oxygen tanks around the clock. Getting dressed required repeated rest breaks. I was just really ashy-gray colored,” he said.

A year earlier, as his pulmonary fibrosis worsened, Mr. Ervin had been forced to give up performing locally at funerals, weddings, and high school games and was just struggling for enough breath to walk around.

“He was the walking wounded – just barely walking,” said his surgeon, Dr. Michael Wait, Chief of the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Service at UT Southwestern’s William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. “Now he looks unbelievable.”


Watch Tim Ervin on YouTube

Learn more about Neil Herskowitz

UTSW Transplant Program

That’s thanks to a double lung transplant in October 2014 that restored his ability to play his beloved instrument. Six months later, Mr. Ervin was trumpeting his recovery at the front of his church, playing “Amazing Grace.”

The playing probably even boosted his recovery by exercising his lungs, said Dr. Wait, Professor of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery.

“It’s a miracle that you go from someone who is gasping for air to get a breath and now they’re playing a trumpet professionally,” said pulmonologist Dr. Fernando Torres, Medical Director of the Lung Transplantation Program who also leads the Pulmonary Hypertension Program, the largest initiative of its kind in the United States. “Each one of our patients have stories that make you smile.”

In April, Mr. Ervin was performing for an appreciative crowd at UT Southwestern’s annual transplant reunion dinner when Neil Herskowitz, a fellow double lung transplant patient who works as assistant equipment manager with the Mavericks, learned of Mr. Ervin’s dream to play at a professional game.

“I thought it would be kind of cool if we could work that out,” Mr. Herskowitz said.

At Monday’s game, they did.

“It felt great,” Mr. Ervin said. “I’m so grateful that I had this opportunity to play.”

He said he hoped it served as a fitting tribute to his unknown donor and that perhaps the donor’s family will see the result of their generous gift.

“That’s my biggest dream – to sit down with that family and look them eye to eye and face to face and say thank you, thank you,” he said.

A dream to mark off Mr. Ervin’s bucket list.

“But just being alive is a pretty good bucket-list thing.”


  • UT Southwestern’s Lung Transplant team has performed more than 600 lung transplant surgeries – including some 300 in past five years –­ making the program one of fewer than 25 in the U.S. to reach that milestone.
  • UTSW’s one-year survival rate is No. 1 in the region and exceeds the national average.
  • UTSW Lung Transplant Clinics are in Amarillo, El Paso, Lubbock, Midland, and Tyler.
  • The UT Southwestern Interstitial Lung Disease program is a designated site of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) Care Center Network (CCN), the only designated site in North Texas and one of just 40 nationwide.
  • Learn More about UTSW’s Transplant Program.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, 600,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.2 million outpatient visits a year.


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