I am a 28-year-old female who has lived with Cystic Fibrosis her whole life. If you don’t know, Cystic Fibrosis causes thick mucus build-ups in lungs, which become nearly impossible for medicine to cure, thus resulting in a lung transplant. For the last six years, my doctor has causally mentioned lung transplant at various appointments.
I nodded and really paid him no attention, because honestly, I wasn’t ready. I was holding out that someday, hopefully soon, someone would come out with a drug that would heal me. Crazy, I know. All that crazy thinking would lead me to have the flu, become intubated, and be put to the top of the transplant list. My family sat and watched the machine breath for me for nine days when the call came for my lungs. When I woke, I had no recollection of what was going on. I remember nothing from before transplant. That’s probably a good thing, being as my family has told me I was not doing well at all. I can’t imagine what it was like for them to have to watch me decline so quickly. I mean, I was teaching kindergarten two weeks before transplant.
I have lived my life regardless of my condition. I went to college, pledged a sorority, dated, met my husband, graduated from college, got a teaching job, married my husband, bought a house, and was living my life no matter how low my lung function was, and boy was it low. I did that until I couldn’t anymore, until the day when my lungs said “ENOUGH!” When I told my doctor I was going to be teaching kindergarten for a living, he was cautiously supportive and reminded me that many people with CF don’t work. He told me “there are other options,” but I didn’t’ want to do anything else. From the moment I stepped in front of a class for the first time, I was hooked. It was like a drug. I knew I was meant to do it and I knew I would never give up. Even through all of the transplant talks, I knew I would never do it without a fight. The first year of teaching, I was surprisingly healthy, but as the years went on, I declined. My last year of teaching was the worse. I remember a student telling me “Mrs,., you cough a lot”. It was during this year when I was hospitalized too many times, put on IV medication every three months, and was using oxygen every chance I could. This was a drastic change from the previous year when hospital stays were about twice a year and oxygen was only at night. I thought my life was good then… Boy was I wrong.
I’ve always had big plans for my life: college, job, husband, dog, babies, traveling; the list could go on, but I knew that these plans had an expiration date. I knew I wouldn’t get to all of these plans if I continued progressing the way I was. I was seeing my doctor more than my own family sometimes. One thing he said to me during a ‘sick visit’ was that one day I was going to have to decide that I was tired of being sick more than being healthy. That was like a punch in the stomach because I knew I was at that point, but I wasn’t ready to bite the bullet so say. I waved him off and went back to teaching. Teaching is not ideal for a person living with a lowered immune system. I caught EVERYTHING. Which is why in May 2016 when I caught the flu, my fight against lung transplant turned into a desperate need for one. I was admitted to the hospital, intubated for nine days, listed on a Friday and received my lungs on Monday.
To say that is anything less than a miracle is wrong. That doesn’t happen. People wait months, years for their lungs and I got mine in three days? I’m not sure how religious you are, but I am absolutely, with a doubt, 10000% sure that this whole process was God’s plan. There’s no reason why God chose me to receive those lungs, but I can’t tell you how thankful I am. I am thankful that my donor family so selflessly gave me life. That’s what they did. They gave my husband his wife back, they gave my parents their daughter back, and they gave me myself back. It’s hard to be the person you want to be when you can’t catch your breath or finish your sentence without struggling. I am finally back to that person. I am back to being energetic, full of life, and happy again. I didn’t realize how unhappy I had become until after transplant. Breathing with these new lungs has taught me to cherish the time I am given, love the ones close to me, and relish in the small daily activities that people take for granted. Because of them, my husband and I can live the life we have always dreamed and talked about. Sure, it comes with some restrictions, but those are nothing compared to the alternative. Since the transplant, I have received my Master’s degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction, I have plans to return for my doctorate, and my husband and I are planning to adopt a child. Life has definitely changed drastically for the better and I owe it all to my new breathers.
They saved me. They saved my family from having to say goodbye. They saved me in my fight against CF. They helped me win. For that, I am so thankful. I pray for them every single day. I hope they find comfort in knowing my story and knowing how I appreciate this gift. It’s a gift I plan on cherishing and a story I plan on sharing with as many people as I can. Their loved one is living in me. I plan on taking full advantage of this second chance at life. I really believe that I would not have survived the summer. I had no options, but God delivered. He delivered these lungs to me because he knew I would not take them for granted. He knew I had more days ahead of me. I truly believe that my precious donor is dancing with the Lord in heaven, smiling down at all of us, knowing this was his plan all along.
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