ATLANTA, GA | February 21, 2023
“Despite training for nine months for another marathon, I remember being exhausted after each of my practice runs and my times worsened, both extremely atypical for me at the time,” reflects Russell. Shortly thereafter, Russell visited the Mayo Clinic and was diagnosed with scleroderma and later pulmonary fibrosis. Scleroderma is an autoimmune connective tissue and rheumatic disease that causes inflammation in the skin and other areas of the body. When the lungs are impacted, scleroderma can cause pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease that occurs when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred.
Despite relying on oxygen 24 hours a day and being told by physicians that a lung transplant would be necessary within ten years, Russell persevered and diligently carried out the extreme regiment of 15 daily medications, therapies, three annual visits to Johns Hopkins and UCSF and strict fitness and eating routines. “I worked, helped raise our children together with my husband, Michael, and enjoyed my life to the fullest,” remarks Russell. “But that everyday routine was becoming too much for my lungs. Over the years I noticed my breathing continued to decline and eventually I was placed on a lung transplant list.”
“In May 2019 I was told by my physician, that I had maybe two months left on my lungs,” states Russell. “And miraculously, less than a month later and 18 months after being placed on a transplant list, I received THE call. I remember questioning the nurse on the other end of the phone – ‘excuse me, what did you just say? Is this a joke?’ No, said the nurse, I have some new lungs for you!” Within two hours of receiving that call, Russell and her son were at the hospital for Russell to prep for surgery.
While in the hospital and in the months following the transplant, Russell emotionally expresses her experience by sharing “Those doctors that helped me are truly incredible, just genius! What they did for me – there are just no words. The genuine love, compassion, and world class care that I received from my friends, family, and the medical team at the University of California San Francisco, was transformative.”
“I owe my life to so many, many wonderful people and I will never forget that,” shares Russell. “Just seven days after a double lung transplant, I was breathing on my own and climbing a flight of stairs. How is that possible? I ask that of myself all the time. I now have healthy lungs; lead a normal life and I feel stronger every day. I can climb stairs, jog and do just about everything I want to do. I strive every day to lead a fulfilling life and support the initiatives and organizations I am most passionate about as much as possible. I feel I owe it to myself and to so many others to do all that I can.”
Now, Russell is stepping forward hoping to inspire community members with her personal story, as she plans to participate in the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb on April 22 for the first time since her transplant surgery.
“We are so honored that Lovette has chosen to support the Lung Association and the Fight for Air Climb in Atlanta,” shares Michele Howell, executive director with the American Lung Association. “Lovette’s vibrant personality and genuine passion for our mission is truly inspiring. We encourage community members to register for the Climb to support the mission of the American Lung Association. And together, along with Lovette, we will cross the finish line.”
The American Lung Association encourages people of all athletic ability to sign up for the Fight For Air Climb to climb 51 floors of 191 Peachtree Tower on April 22. Joining the Fight For Air Climb supports the work of the Lung Association to defeat lung cancer, champion clean air for all, improve the quality of life for those living with lung disease and their families, and create a tobacco-free future.
For registration to the Atlanta Fight For Air Climb, visit ClimbAtlanta.org and to stay connected locally with the American Lung Association, follow us on Facebook @ALAGeorgia or Instagram @americanlungatl.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Platinum-Level GuideStar Member, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org. To support the work of the American Lung Association, find a local event at Lung.org/events.
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