LUNG FORCE Heroes
Hi, My name is Cindy Williamson. In early 2015, I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis. The disease progressed rapidly and by the end of 2015 I was on oxygen 80 percent of my day and my test results were declining. My doctor referred me to a pulmonologist on Ochsner's Transplant Team; who eventually made the decision to start the process of putting me on the transplant list.
I went through weeks of test after test, blood work, immunization shots, mental stability tests and consulting with coordinators. My name was put on the transplant list in May 2016, and by this time, I was now on oxygen 24/7. One of the things the coordinators urged me to do was some fundraising because I was a one paycheck household. Aside from the surgery, there would be many post-transplant appointments, tests and necessary medications that would be extremely costly; and I would be out of work for a minimum of 3-6 months.
Over the next few months, my wonderful family and friends stepped up and put together many fundraisers on my behalf. They raised enough for me to get through my post-transplant recovery without financial stresses. By Fall of 2016, it was becoming harder and harder to work and I was barely making it through a 25 hour week. No matter how hard I prayed and how much faith I had, the anxiety and stress that I would not receive the call in time began to overpower my thoughts.
I saw my doctor every six weeks for a six minute walk, PFT test, and other routine tests. Each time I went, my results had declined and I could feel it. I had an intense cough, I couldn't walk from my living room to the bathroom without needing oxygen, and some days I didn't even want to get out of bed much less leave the house. A simple task like taking a shower was difficult; and my recovery from it would take 30 minutes. I had family, friends, and a daughter I wasn't ready to leave, all praying for me and keeping my faith alive; but I couldn't help to think that if I didn't get the transplant soon, I wasn't going to make it.
I finally received "the call" on December 21, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. I was sitting at my desk at work getting ready to celebrate Christmas with my group. Everyone was so happy for me, hugging and crying right there with me. Once I got in my car, I called my daughter and other family members to tell them the good news. I had three hours to get to the hospital. I was so excited, but I didn't want to get too excited because there was still a chance that the donor lungs would not be right for me. So I just kept praying to our Lord and having faith that it would all work out.
Once I got to the hospital, everything was happening so fast that I didn't have time to think about anything. Later that evening, I was told that it was happening! I was shocked. The nurses took me back about 6:00 p.m., but the surgery didn't begin until 9:00 p.m. and lasted until close to 5:00 a.m. When it was over, the doctors told my family that the surgery went well and they were able to use both donor lungs! It was truly a Christmas Miracle. God heard all of our prayers, I was so blessed.
When I woke up, I had so many emotions. It was bittersweet. I was crying tears of joy and tears of sadness for the donor and the donor family. I was like this for a long time. Happy one minute and crying the next. My recovery in the hospital was amazing. My doctor couldn't believe how well I was doing; getting better each day. I was only in the hospital for nine days, and was able to go home on December 29, 2016 without oxygen. Once home, I continued to get stronger each day with little to no problems. My recovery was also a miracle. It has been nine months and I am still feeling great. My donor's family and I have been in contact with one another and it just breaks my heart to know their story. I pray for them each and everyday. So that is my story, thanks for allowing me to share.
First published: September 1, 2017
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