By Karen Range, lung recipient
My name is Karen Range. Prior to February 2006 I was a fairly healthy stay-at-home mom of a 2-year-old. In mid-February I started coughing and was short of breath. I went to the doctor and was told I had pneumonia. I was given antibiotics and steroids but continued to worsen.
I was diagnosed with bronchitis and given more antibiotics and steroids. This went on until I coughed so hard I cracked two ribs and was in unbearable pain.
My next trip was to a Pulmonologist. He took X-rays and CAT scans and told me that my sinuses were blocked causing the constant infection. I was put on long-term antibiotics and told I would be better in six weeks. It was April and I had been coughing since February.
I wasn’t any better, so I was hospitalized for testing in May. A week later I was diagnosed with BOOP (Bronchiolitis Obliterans Organizing Pneumonia). I was told that with high doses of steroids would resolve this in six months to a year. After six months, I was not any better and my lung function had declined slightly. I was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. for a second opinion. At Mayo I learned I had Constrictive Bronchiolitis Obliterans and not BOOP. I was also told that there was very little that could be done to help me. There was no medication that would open up the badly scarred small airways in my lungs. My only hope was a transplant.
My husband, Jerry, and I were in shock. We had gone to the Mayo Clinic for hope not devastation. I was not yet 40 years old and in need of an organ transplant.
We decided not to believe them and came home determined to find another solution. In January 2007 I started seeing an alternative medicine doctor that thought he could help me. After months of treatments, my lung function was still declining and I was failing physically and emotionally. I finally gave up and made an appointment to see my Pulmonologist to talk to him about transplant. He was very supportive of our decision and made the referral for us at the Cleveland Clinic.
I was listed for a double-lung transplant at the Cleveland Clinic on Feb. 7, 2008. That is when the wait began.
I was told that my wait might be longer due to my small size. I waited 22 months and on Dec. 1, 2009 I was blessed with a beautiful pair of new lungs. I was in the hospital for 10 days and then was released to a nearby hotel in the Cleveland area.
Thanks to lots of prayer and God’s incredible grace I was released home on Dec. 23 just in time for Christmas with my family and in my own home. I am truly thankful for God’s wonderful miracle and the generosity and love of my donor and donor family.
My life has changed dramatically since transplant. Just prior to my transplant I was pretty much home-bound and on oxygen 24/7. I could only take care of my immediate needs while my husband worked more than 40 hours a week at his job, took care of me, our son, and all of our family’s needs. I did things that didn’t require activity and was tired, sick, and very socially withdrawn.
I am now two years post transplant. My recovery has gone very well. I can do more things than I ever imagined. I am truly amazed at how wonderful it is to breathe. I have been without oxygen since the Friday after my transplant. It is so awesome not to drag tanks or a cord behind me everywhere I go. I can live life without gasping for air and enjoy most of life’s activities. I can take care of my family and be the wife and mother that they need me to be.
This transplant has transformed all of our lives. We have a new appreciation for all the “little” things in life and don’t ever take one day for granted. I treasure each new day as if it is a gift. It is a gift – a gift from a selfless family that said “YES” to organ donation!