Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Beautiful Miracle: My 10th Thanksgiving

090303 is a day that is forever locked in my heart.  It is the day that I was given a second chance at life. September 3rd, 2003 is the day that I became the recipient of a double lung transplant. Today is the 10th anniversary of that day.

Ten years ago, the sudden death of a wonderful, intelligent woman became my opportunity to live. She had made the choice to be an organ donor, and her family knew her wishes.  Because of that choice, her family's loss was my salvation, and since then we are forever linked.

I had been diagnosed with a fatal illness, a rare lung disease with a long name, lymphangioleiomyomatosis or LAM.  Almost a death sentence,  "almost"  because I was given one chance, and that was if I could survive a double lung transplant.  If I could keep my body healthy enough, if my insurance would pay, if I had the help and support of family and friends, if my mental health was strong enough, if a donor match could be found in time, if I could survive the long surgery, the anesthesia, the blood loss, the possibility of infection, rejection, all these things....if all the stars would line up right, maybe, just maybe I could live.

I was first listed for transplant in March of 2000, which means that I was sick enough and my lung function was diminished enough that transplant was considered a "last resort." I was placed at the bottom of a long list of sick people who were all just like me or worse: all of us sick enough to die but healthy enough to survive a transplant.  There we waited for someone to meet a tragic end,  someone who was an organ donor, whose tissue was a match,  who was deceased but their organ was not damaged, who had similar antibodies, who was close enough to a medical center to preserve the organ.

In other words, we were all waiting for a miracle.  I waited 41 months.

Then came Labor Day weekend in 2003.  I had been very, very ill for many, many months. I was using continuous oxygen at 7 liters/minute at rest.  Every breath was hard work.  I knew I was near the end and that I would be lucky to see another Christmas.  I recall looking out of my window at nature and thinking about how hard it is to say goodbye to life, and sad about those I would leave behind.

Early that morning the phone rang with the call that saved my life, while at the same time a family was grieving over their loss.  I remember the feelings of hope and fear as Jurgen drove us the 3 hours to the medical center.  Was it the end or the beginning?  Looking back, it was both.

I like to think that part of the spirit of that kind and thoughtful woman who lost her life on that day somehow lives on in me:  That the two of us were standing at death's door.  She passed through first and turned back to hand me a gift that allowed me to stay behind as she went on.

I cherish that gift not only today, but each and every day, with deep gratitude in my heart.  Words can barely express the feelings I have as well for my family and friends, the doctors, nurses and surgeons, and all who helped and prayed that day and afterwards so that I might live.  Thanks just doesn't seem like enough, but it's what I can give.

090303 is the day my stars lined up.  It was and still is a beautiful miracle.  Giving thanks.


  1. Tell me where you received your lungs , as I am dyeing and they keep turning me down ,saying I'm high risk ,don't they understand with out one I am dead ... I P F

  2. I remember that time... and am so thankful for your miracle. Continue to celebrate each and every day.