By Tina. Only a few of my friends at International Neighbors know about my medical history so I thought I would share with the rest of you now. It is a story of tragedy and triumph which I think many of us are facing today. I hope you will find in this story a glimmer of hope in an otherwise scary time.
On an afternoon in early December 2009 I came home from school and went upstairs to change, got to the top of the stairs and couldn’t get my breath. It took 20 minutes for my breathing to return to normal. I was worried because I had a very physical job and I had been going to the gym regularly with no issues. I woke up the next morning and was fine so I went to work. I talked to our school nurse about what had occurred and she sent me to my doctor immediately. I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia and was treated for that for four weeks. At the end of that time I was no better and actually getting worse. I asked to see a lung specialist and by the end of April I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in both lungs. A non-treatable form of lung disease which without a lung transplant would be fatal.
In June I was put on oxygen and my doctor wanted to put me on the transplant list but that required me losing 30 lbs. and passing a series of tests. With the help of my oxygen I was able to exercise 6 days a week and by September I was on the list. I was told my chances for a transplant were very slim because I had an antibody score of 73 which made matches hard to come by. I was told I had to stay within a three-hour radius of University of Michigan and for someone who loves to travel that was very hard. I also had to stay away from anyone who was sick (sound familiar). It was also important to keep exercising even though that was, physically, getting harder to do. I followed all my instructions to the letter. I was on the list 3 years.
On April 12, 2013 at 2 am I received the call that a pair of lungs had become available. Surrounded by family I was off to the hospital. On April 13th I received my new lungs after a 14-hour surgery. I was on a ventilator for 3 days which seemed like an eternity to my family. I consider myself very fortunate, my recovery was actually quite easy thanks to good nursing care and the fact that I had regularly exercised.
It is the beginning of my 7th year post surgery; my new lungs are doing great. Each year on the 13th of April celebrate my gift of life with a family birthday party. This year it was a little different. My daughter arranged a “Hangouts” party. My whole family participated complete with a cake with 7 candles. On the down side, only my daughters’ family got to eat the cake (It was Yellow and Blue in honor of the spectacular care I received at the University of Michigan Hospital) but we all blew out the candles together virtually!!!
In summary I believe that there are Miracles that happen in this world. If I had not been close to the U of M I might not have received a timely diagnosis which may have prevented me from getting on the transplant list. If I had become too depressed to follow my instructions during the 3 year period I had to wait, I would not have remained eligible for a transplant. If perfect lungs had not become available when they did, I would not be here. If the doctors and nurses at the University of Michigan had not been of the high caliber that they are, I would not be here. As it is, I AM HERE I have gotten to play with my granddaughter; witnessed the marriage of my son; celebrated the birth of more two grandchildren; and am anticipating the birth of a third. In my mind this has been 10 years filled with miracles large and small.
I know these are really scary times for everyone. I myself have to be extremely careful. I continue to follow the rules, I continue to exercise, and I continue to choose to be upbeat because depression does no good. Most of all I continue to believe in miracles. I hope that no matter how hard things get you can still see the miracles around you whether it is the person doing grocery shopping for you, the mailman, the delivery person, the fact that you have internet and books to keep you occupied, in whatever form they take see them as the blessings they are and allow them to buoy you up. If you have loved ones who are sick hold tight to the knowledge that our doctors and nurses (who are some of the finest in the land) will be doing everything in their power for a positive outcome…I know from personal experience!