Making a gift now to benefit research later

Lung-transplant recipient Tom Stripling finds cause for hope by funding pulmonary research at Stanford Medicine

After graduating from Stanford with a BS in computer science, Tom Stripling was committed to staying active as a volunteer. Acknowledging the huge impact the university had on his life, the ’02 alumnus served on panels for prospective students, attended community events, and participated in various other activities sponsored by the Stanford Alumni Association. He also made philanthropic gifts to The Stanford Fund and to one institution that held particular significance for him: the Stanford Polo Club, of which he was a member throughout his college career.

But it wasn’t until nearly 20 years after his graduation that Tom was inspired, on a deeply personal level, to make a charitable gift benefiting the Stanford School of Medicine.

This is his story.

Inspired to Make a Lasting Gift

Tom Stripling (center) with members of the Stanford Polo Club, circa 2001

Active, fit, and young, Tom was mystified when, at the age of 39, he began experiencing difficulty breathing and other symptoms of a pulmonary illness. After seeing several physicians at a local health care system, he was diagnosed in January 2019 with a degenerative and incurable lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Following his diagnosis, Tom decided to seek treatment at Stanford Medicine.

Characterized by scar tissue developing in the lungs, IPF has no known cause—hence the “idiopathic” in its name—and typically strikes people in their 60s or 70s. “That’s why it took a while for me to be diagnosed,” says Tom, who works as a cybersecurity consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Because of my younger age, I was way on the outside of the probability curve.”

Tom’s condition deteriorated rapidly following his diagnosis, with his lungs becoming so scarred and impaired that he required supplemental oxygen. Soon after, as his illness progressed and his breathing became more labored, he was admitted to Stanford Hospital. After several weeks, he was fortunate to receive a bilateral lung transplant—just eight months after diagnosis. “When I was in the hospital, I got progressively worse until my lungs stopped working altogether and I had to be put on a machine that breathed for me,” Tom says. “I was able to get the transplant just in the nick of time.”

“New advances are being developed that will make these procedures safer and extend the lives of transplant recipients, and with Evelyn’s and my gift to Stanford, we get to be a part of that.” — Tom Stripling

In addition to being forever thankful for the donor who saved his life, Tom is eternally grateful to the entire team at Stanford who played such a vital role in his care—from the nurses in the emergency department to the staff in the ICU, as well as the entire transplant team, who he still sees regularly for follow-up care. “When I went into the hospital, I thought, I’m never going to leave this place,” Tom relates. “And now look where I am—I was able to walk a 5K, albeit very slowly, just 10 weeks after my transplant. I have everyone at Stanford to thank for that.”

A Gift for Research

Tom and his wife, Evelyn Skye

Despite the enormous strides that have been made in the science of lung transplantation, there is still work to be done. For instance, research has shown that survivability after lung transplant tends to be worse compared with other solid organ transplants, with a median survival time of approximately five years post-transplant. There are also the wide-ranging, potentially serious side effects caused by the anti-rejection drugs that transplant patients must take for the rest of their lives. “Your body starts to attack the transplant at some point even though you’re on all these immunosuppression drugs,” Tom explains. “And transplanted lungs tend to be affected more than other body parts since every breath exposes them to the outside environment.”

Because of his own experience, coupled with the fact that his nephew has a genetic condition that puts him at risk for developing IPF, Tom—along with his wife, Evelyn Skye (Stanford ’01)—decided to make a bequest gift to Stanford Medicine to support pulmonary research, particularly as it relates to lung transplantation. Since a bequest is a gift included in a donor’s will, living trust, or other arrangement that will be directed to Stanford after the donor’s lifetime, this allows Tom and Evelyn to support Stanford Medicine while also maintaining current control and use of their assets.

“Giving to Stanford University over the years has enabled me to support my school,” Tom says, “and now, through a gift benefiting research being conducted at Stanford Medicine, I have the opportunity to help support the health of future generations.”

Tom remains hopeful that the lung transplantation research taking place at Stanford Medicine—research that his gift will help advance—will potentially make a difference in countless numbers of lives, including that of his own nephew. “I am in awe of the medicine and technology that kept me alive, but there’s so much more we could do with more research,” he says. “New advances are being developed that will make these procedures safer and extend the lives of transplant recipients, and with Evelyn’s and my gift to Stanford, we get to be a part of that. It feels good to know that our legacy will live on in the lives of future patients.”

Learn how you can support pulmonary research and take steps to make your own bequest gift to Stanford Medicine.

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