Internationally Renowned Recording Artist Receives Double Lung Transplant

For decades, Venezuelan artist, José Luis Rodriguez – commonly known as “El Puma” – has entertained fans worldwide through music and television.

But in the early 2000s, Rodriguez noticed his voice dramatically changed to a lower tone and he could no longer travel to high altitude cities. His health was deteriorating.

His physician diagnosed him with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – a terminal lung disease that results in scarring of the lungs.

“My last performance on stage was in Barranquilla, Colombia, and I felt I was going to die,” recalls Rodriguez. “My heart was beating really fast.”

In 2017, Rodriguez was referred to the Miami Transplant Institute, an affiliation between Jackson Health System and the University of Miami Health System, where doctors determined his only chance of survival was a double lung transplant.

“Patients and their families need to be aware of this disease and the limited treatment options,” said Matthias Loebe, MD, UHealth program director for thoracic transplantation and mechanical circulatory support. “Early referral to a lung transplant program is the only way to prolong life and improve quality of life.”

Rodriguez was placed on the national transplant waiting list, and in December he received a call that a donor match was available.

Dr. Loebe, along with a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, and staff, led a successful, five-hour double lung transplant operation at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Rodriguez continues his recovery and looks forward to once again performing onstage.

He shares details of his transplant journey to highlight the importance of organ donation in helping save lives.

“It’s like dying and coming back to life – it has been the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through but I overcame this with patience, faith, and hope” said Rodriguez. “I believe in God and miracles with science. Jackson does miracles every day.”