Friday, April 6, 2007

3 Year Lung Anniversary

It's a busy day at work so just one post today! I recently celebrated my 3 year lung anniversary (for this set, 7 years if you count both sets) and below is the letter I hope that my donor family has received. I wish them peace and healing and send them unspeakable gratitude.

Dearest Donor Family,

As March 28th approaches, it is both a happy and sad day for me and my family. It is a happy day because it marks the anniversary of the day my life was saved. It is a sad day because it also marks the anniversary of the day you lost someone you love.

I wanted to write you this letter because I need you to know how much your gift means to me. The truth is, that is something I could never fully explain, even if I wrote 1,000 letters.

I have lived with illness from the time I was born. At 6 months of age, I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic illness that primarily affected my lungs.

After a sickly childhood, I began my acquaintance with in-patient hospital care at the age of 12. In spite of extensive ongoing treatments and procedures, (at home and in various hospitals), I graduated High School and began college. After three years, however, my health deteriorated to such a degree that I had to drop out. It was then that the doctors at UNC Memorial Hospital placed me on the list for a double lung transplant. Waiting a total of five long and difficult years, during which, my lung function dropped to 18% capacity, I received my first set of donor lungs in April of 2000. I celebrated my 27th birthday a few months later.

The following year, I returned to school but shortly before finishing was diagnosed with Chronic Rejection. This was a devastating emotional and physical blow.

In 2004, I grew gravely ill, even more so than before my first transplant. My lung function was down to 10%of capacity and I was told I only had months to live. I was devastated that I was going to die so young (I was only 30) without meeting so many of my dreams and life goals.

Due to a series of wonderful and unusual events, I was able to have a rarely performed second lung transplant just in the nick of time. Amazingly, it has been more successful than the first!

It is not lost on me that I am extraordinarily lucky. My life has been spared twice by the compassion and generosity of two different families. There is not a day that passes that I take this gift for granted. In fact, it is this generosity that motivates me to strive to make a difference in the world. I feel I owe it to myself, my family, my donor’s family and my donors to make every moment count.

Today, I am happier and healthier than I ever thought possible. I am married to the man of my dreams. I have a passion for public speaking and writing and I am channeling those talks and writings around helping caregivers and patients with chronic or terminal illness. For the first time in my life I am able to live and work as a normal adult. I can breathe beautifully and am sure to run and play as often as possible. Every breathe I take is a breathe of gratitude. I am living a wonderful life.

I am carrying out all the dreams that I had for myself when I was so sick I could barely walk across the room. I do all of this in honor of your loved one, my donor.

I am so sorry for your loss. I know that nothing I can do can make up for that pain. I can only hope that you will feel that the lungs you donated are being used with love and respect and eternal gratitude.



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