Free to Breathe
My story begins September 1999 when I was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – I was only 41. COPD is a progressive lung disease that makes it very difficult to breathe. I was devastated, but told myself that I wasn’t going to let it get me.
Over the next 11 years, I did a pretty good job at keeping the disease from progressing – I quit smoking and tried to stay as active as I could. There were a couple bumps along the way, but I was feeling okay. During one check-up, my pulmonologist tested my oxygen level at night. The results came back unfavorable, so I went on oxygen to help me sleep. This was defeating since I had been trying to manage the disease without oxygen.
I had to realize I was slowly getting worse. Everyday activities were getting harder to do. Making the bed, cleaning the house and even walking was taking a longer time than “normal.” I would have to stop or sit for a moment to catch my breath before continuing.
In January 2013, after a hectic holiday season full of family responsibilities, I fell very ill and was hospitalized for eight days. Shortly after that stay, I was back in the hospital again. Each time I got sick, my lung function depleted even more. I was forced to be on oxygen practically full-time.
It was during my second hospital stay that my doctor told me the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Lung Transplant program was re-opening. He asked if I would be interested in being listed for life-saving lung transplant. Without any hesitation I said ABSOLUTLEY!
On August 9, 2013, a mere ten days after being placed on the transplant list, I got THE call! It was Staci, my lung transplant coordinator. She said “Becky, this is Staci. Are you ready?” YES! I was overcome with emotion and felt so grateful for the gift I was about to receive. It took me 20 minutes to leave work, I was so out of breath from excitement!
I was the first person to be transplanted under the newly re-opened program. My surgery and recovery went exceptionally well; I was released from the hospital two weeks later. One of my best days post-surgery was when the oxygen company came and took the concentrator and tanks away. I was free!
In the last year, I have been making great progress. I have had no signs of rejection or infection and I am able to exercise three times a week. To celebrate my renewed life, and to honor my donor, my hero, my family, friends and I will be walking the Dash for Donation in July. My 82-year old dad is even joining us!
I want everyone to know that even though you may have had a transplant or may have medical issues, you still have the potential to give the gift of life. If it wasn’t for my donor I would not be here today. Take two minutes and register today.
I have been called a rock star by family, friends and my transplant team.
The true rock star is my donor.