Local Woman Walks to Remember Lung Donor who Saved her Life
Jennifer Stouffer shares incredible story about rare lung disease and a second chance at life
(August 27, 2019) - CHICAGO
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Just seven years ago, Jennifer Stouffer was an average woman – she has two kids, is married, worked full time and lives in North Aurora with her family. Now, she is living a new normal after battling a rare autoimmune disease, lung disease and receiving a double lung transplant. To raise awareness about lung disease, and also honor the lung donor who saved her life, she is participating in the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE Walk on September 22.
Stouffer’s journey began in 2012 when she developed mouth sores and a cough. For more than a year, she was diagnosed with asthma and allergies. Then, in 2013, it got so bad that she could barely walk.
“I couldn’t walk from the train station to work. I couldn’t breathe. I had to keep stopping to catch my breath,” said Stouffer.
She called her doctor’s office and they recommended that she go to the emergency room. After multiple tests and appointments with specialists, she was diagnosed with paraneoplastic pemphigus, a rare autoimmune disease. She began receiving intensive treatments for the disease. Over time, this disease caused bronchiolitis obliterans, which is more commonly known as popcorn lung.
“At only 43 years old, I had only 30% lung capacity and I was on oxygen,” she said.
At that point, her doctors informed her that her only choice was to have a lung transplant. However, her condition was so rare that most transplant centers wouldn’t accept her. Finally, her doctor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital took her case to the transplant team and she was accepted. On June 11, 2018, Stouffer received her double lung transplant.
“When you are healthy, you don’t even realize all that your body is doing. We need to be more proactive about lung health because having lung disease is so limiting. We take being able to breathe for granted,” she said.
Stouffer is participating in the LUNG FORCE Walk on September 22 to help raise awareness for lung disease and honor the people who help save her life.
“I walk to honor the transplant team at Northwestern Medicine and in memory of the organ donor that saved my life. Without my donor I wouldn’t be able to do this. The hardest thing is someone else’s death allowed me to continue my life. I think of that person every day,” Stouffer said.
The LUNG FORCE Walk is on Sunday, September 22 at 10 a.m. at Independence Grove in Libertyville. The event is free to attend, but fundraising is encouraged. To learn more and register, visit, LUNGFORCE.org/Chicago.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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