On July 28, 2003, life changed when I received the breath of life from the most amazing set of new lungs! Mine had served me as well as they could for 39 years, and now it was time to move on.
My husband John calls this my “0 – 60 mph in 3 seconds phase”; I took off as fast as my recovery would allow me to! There was so much that I wanted to do now that I could breathe again, and the transition was nothing short of spectacular. Even now it is hard to come up with the words to truly express the transition that happens once you no longer have to struggle for every breath. It is like attaining freedom from the invisible bonds that sapped you of every ounce of energy that you had.
Prior to my transplant surgery my FEV1 was 16% of normal, and it was becoming increasing difficult to perform even the everyday tasks of bathing, and self-care. Always one to push myself, I would still insist on getting out of the house and do something outside every day. In the winter it would not be unusual to find me outside shovelling snow with my oxygen pack slung over one shoulder.
We finally received “the call” one week shy of three years on the waiting list. It was surreal and exciting. I was ready, and so were my support team! Being released from the hospital only two and a half weeks post-transplant, I remember being quite tentative with trying things at first as recovery from lung transplant surgery is nothing that can be rushed. Even though you feel like a million bucks (compared to what you felt like before surgery), it is still an bit of an uphill battle with weeks of breathing tests, x-rays and blood work and any other procedures that may be needed. During recovery the treadmill was my best friend for the first few weeks, then small weights were slowly introduced. Eventually it was back to walking, biking, and oh yeah, the dreaded housework (which technically is exercise, I guess).
Life has been nothing short of amazing since transplant. Coming from the brink of death, to being able to perform the simplest of tasks – like eating without choking, and bathing without becoming exhausted – are truly humbling.
After the transplant, furthering my post-secondary was a dream come true, as was attaining full time employment at the local community college. Involvement in community and giving back to those who supported my family when we needed it most was also of upmost importance. There seem to be new opportunities to give back around every corner.
One of the things that I enjoy the most about being a CF Transplant warrior is that I can take my experiences and use them to help other CF patients facing transplant. Helping others is a great feeling, and in doing so I am also helping myself. It reminds me every day of how truly blessed I am to have this second chance at life.