Age - 51
Date of Transplant - April 28, 2009
When did cystic fibrosis become real for you?
What it meant to live with CF really hit me when I was in my late teens/early 20s when I realized there were some things in life I may not be able to experience like my peers, like building a career, getting married, and having a family. All the things you look forward to after high school and college.
Walk us through the process of the lung transplant from call to recovery?
On February 26, 2009, I experienced bi-lateral pneumothorax and had to be put on the vent. I had to take a life flight from Beaumont in Royal Oak to University of Michigan where I had been receiving all of my treatment, and where the transplant would be done. I woke up 5 days after the collapse, on life support at U of M, and told I had to stay in the hospital until I got new lungs. 2 months later I received the call. I was sitting in my hospital bed when my phone rang. My mom was with me, as she was every day from the first day I was admitted. I called my husband, Steve, who was at work in Royal Oak and my mom called my dad and the rest of my family. I was immediately moved to the Cardiac Vascular Center to be prepped for surgery. I was taken into surgery around 8:30 p.m. I remember saying “I love you” to my parents and husband.
I was taken to recovery the following morning around 7:30 a.m. The surgery took about 10 1/2 hours. By late afternoon the next day I was out of bed and sitting up in a chair. I was finally discharged on May 19th. I came home to new medications, a new routine and a new lease on life. Prior to my transplant, I was on oxygen, did 3-5 breathing treatments a day, countless pills, endured IV antibiotics about every 3 months, and struggle just to walk to the bathroom. Now, in some ways, I was starting all over. It was very daunting at first. All I had known was breathing treatments, vest treatments, IV antibiotics, shortness of breath, struggling just to get through one day. I experienced severely anxiety for several weeks post-transplant. Now when I look back on the recovery, I would have to say it took about 1 1/2 years to feel “normal” and back to myself.
I’ve had many people ask me “Knowing what you know now, would you still make the same decision to go forward with a transplant?” Absolutely!!! I wouldn’t hesitate.
How do you Rock CF & stay active post-transplant?
I belong to a gym called “Get Some Fitness” in Beverly Hills. I take boxing classes 3-4 times a week and absolutely love it! When I go I try to wear a Rock CF shirt and when I do, I’ve had the opportunity to bring awareness to not only the disease, but the Rock CF Foundation as well. I love the boxing classes and have really had a lot of fun and look forward to many more classes and beating up at that gym.
Any other comments or things you’d like us to know about you?
One thing I decided long before I actually received my transplant, was that if given the opportunity, I would want to meet my donor’s family, and learn about who my donor was. I was fortunate enough to meet my donor’s mom, Carol, and her partner, Bill in July 2010. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to thank them in person and share with them how their decision to honor their daughter’s last wishes had given me a second chance in life. My donor was Jessica Varney. She was 24 years old and from all that I’ve learned, an amazing individual, who had been studying to be a nurse, and her decision to become a donor, and her family’s decision to honor her last wishes, saved my life.