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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Lung transplant recipient singing with life

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By Sergio Jimenez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Aaron Trumm goes over the instruments he utilizes to make his music on June 6. Trumm had cystic fibrosis, but received a lung transplant and now uses that experience as his musical inspiration.

Musicians take inspiration from all sorts of places when making an album. For pianist Aaron Trumm, his came from his lungs — or rather, from someone else’s lungs.

Trumm said he was born with cystic fibrosis and was referred for a lung transplant when he became ill in 2013. He was 38 years old with lungs at 18 percent capacity.

Doctors told him the waiting period for his transplant could be anywhere from a week to six months, he said.

Trumm got lucky, and just a day after going onto the transplant list he received a call that a pair of lungs were available for him, he said.

“I just started saying ‘I am strong, I am happy, I am healthy, I am free.’ And I would say that all the time,” Trumm said. “You start to believe it, and that’s when things start to change.”

Sandi Blanton, Trumm’s mother, said the most surprising part was how quickly Trumm received a transplant.

“I learned that I don’t need to know how things are going to work out. I just have to believe that they will,” Blanton said.

Trumm began working on his fourth album three years before his transplant, but in 2012 he said it become too difficult for him to sing and rap, so the album was put on hold.

After the transplant he resumed work with 90 percent lung capacity and a new outlook, he said

“After the transplant I was so happy about stuff, and my attitude just shifted,” Trumm said. “You don’t want to try to make everybody depressed. This is supposed to be uplifting.”

Trumm said he is working with 10 artists to create an album that celebrates the beauty of life.

Paul LaFourest, guitarist on the album, said he wanted to work with Trumm because the album was eclectic and well-crafted.

“I think the lyrical content is directly tied to his survival,” LaFaourest said. “He certainly has a much deeper understanding of what it means to be alive and how precious that is.”

Trumm rewrote lyrics to his song “Pick Me Up,” which was originally about feeling lonely and drinking as a result. Now the song sends a message about not needing to drink to feel good, he said.

“In the original chorus it was, ‘I am going to lay myself on a wooden floor.’ Instead I changed it to, ‘I am going to lay my troubles down on the floor.’ So it’s still really dark but it’s like ‘let’s lift up,’” Trumm said.

LaFourest hopes the album will gain publicity because he thinks a lot of people can benefit from hearing Trumm’s message, he said.

“I think that he just wants to get his album out there. It has little to do with how much money he makes on it,” LaFourest said.

Trumm tried to use Kickstarter to raise the $17,000 he needs to release his project digitally, on CD and vinyl. The Kickstarter failed, he said, and he is now trying to raise $5,000 to release “Strong, Happy, Healthy, Free” as a digital-only album,

He said he is optimistic that he will be able to raise the money because he knows people help when others need it.

“I saw that people will come together, people know that you’re there and they want to help,” Trumm said. “Everything you could possibly do matters to other people. Even a simple music project matters. Nothing is ever just you.”

Lauren Marvin is a freelance writer for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @LaurenMarvin.