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Recipient Stories

Tuesday’s Tale: A New Breath

At three months old, I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Even with my diagnosis I was brought up to live my life to the fullest. I followed my regimen of medicine and chest therapy throughout my childhood and early adulthood with few problems. I had hardly any hospital visits and was even able to play soccer!

When I was in my early 20s and preparing to graduate from college, all I could think about were the adventures that lie ahead. The world was my oyster.

I was determined to graduate with my law degree and continued classes until my 3rd year. By then it had just become too much to handle. I made the decision to leave school, my Mom and I relocated, and I was listed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). We lived in this great place called “The Townhouse.”  It was a home full of patients and families waiting on transplants and cancer patients undergoing treatment. There were times in Toledo when I just felt alone. While I was in Birmingham, it was like I was surrounded by a second family. I was lucky to be around people who knew what I was going through. It was my own built in support system.

During my time in Alabama, I was admitted to the children’s hospital every six weeks for a two-week stay. I am so lucky to have been there. Those doctors and nurses kept me alive. On March 9, 2000 when I got my call, it was during one my routine hospital stays. We were only six blocks away from UAB. After a six hour surgery, I had received my new lungs. While I did have some hurdles along the way, I recovered quickly. By the second day I was walking up to one mile a day!

Within three weeks of my original surgery, I was out of the hospital. I recovered in The Townhouse until Mother’s Day. What a great day to go home! That summer I took a rock climbing class with a fellow double lung recipient from Alabama. I was able to return to law school in September 2000 and passed the bar exam in January 2001. I also accepted a job with the District Court of Appeals in Lima and continued to move forward with my new shot at life. In 2004, I began my work with Lifeline of Ohio. I have enjoyed the opportunity to give back to such a great organization. I have been able to speak at events on behalf of the power of donation, as well as attending health fairs throughout the community and volunteering for some large events, like the Dash for Donation.

Tony and Debbie

I have also been able to do quite a bit of traveling in the past few years. I have visited Europe three times including tours of Italy and Ireland. My favorite trip was this past May when I married my best friend, Deborah, in a castle in Scotland.

Today, I am living in Clintonville and working for the Ohio Department of Commerce. I still have cystic fibrosis but my new lungs are not at risk.

With the help of enzymes, I am able to keep both myself and my gift, as healthy as possible. While I encourage people to stay as healthy as possible, I truly believe that there is no greater gift than the gift of life. There is no greater legacy you can leave.  I am happy to live every day honoring my donor and the gift I was given. Every breath I take is a new chance, a new day. With each new day, I say a prayer for my donor family and I know that I will spend every day of the rest of my life not only just feeling grateful, but acting on it as well. I will live my life to the fullest and each breath I take will be a silent ‘thank you’ for my second chance at a new life.

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