Judy W

Judy W., IL

Every day I fight for healthy air, because Lucy and Ethel can’t function properly without it. In case you were wondering, Lucy and Ethel are the nicknames I have given my new lungs that in return have given me a new lease on life.

As every grateful transplant recipient knows, it's a daily battle to stay healthy. While I wouldn't say that I'm superstitious, I hope that by humanizing my new lungs with a little tongue-in-cheek humor, I reinforce my determination to move forward with Lucy and Ethel firmly in charge of every breath I take.

Growing up in Chicago with five older brothers was an adventure. We spent a lot time around campfires and working on cars. To add to that, my dad along with each of my brothers smoked. Eventually, I picked up their habit until one day I noticed I really was starting to slow down.

I had just come back from a cruise and was worried that I had picked something up during my travels. My doctor was initially baffled by my symptoms and went so far as to send a vial of my blood to the CDC to ensure what I had was not contagious. Yet, it was x-rays of my lungs that eventually prompted my doctor to refer me to a pulmonologist who diagnosed me with COPD and predicted I would need a lung transplant in the future.

I could barely wrap my head around needing a double lung transplant. Over the course of the next five years, my health began to decline significantly and that scary reality soon took hold. I got to a point where I was being admitted to the hospital every six to eight weeks with either pneumonia or acute bronchitis. Somehow, I always ended up in room number 13 of the ICU.

Barely able to breathe, let alone drive, I often had to rely on the paramedics to rush me to the hospital. I eventually learned each of their names and encouraged them to take pop from the fridge whenever they came to whisk me away to the hospital.

By this time, I required round-the-clock oxygen support. Working was no longer feasible. Just taking a shower was at least a four hour process. I would work a little shampoo into one section of my hair and then need to rest for 10 minutes or so before resuming again.

Navigating around my home was exhausting. I found that I needed to have a chair placed every five feet to rest just to traverse from room to room. My slow pace made it difficult to even get myself to the bathroom in a predictable fashion, so I was forced to wear adult diapers.

It was difficult to adjust to what my life had become, as I was used to coming and going as I pleased. Suddenly, I could barely feed myself. On bad days, when I was extra shaky, more food would end up on the floor or on my clothes than in my mouth. I missed crocheting and spending time working on needlepoint projects. Life was depressing.

You are reading this, because my story does in fact have a happy ending. As I mentioned earlier, I am the grateful recipient of two new lungs—Lucy and Ethel. I can breathe; I can live independently and want others to know what a gift life really is. My gift comes with one condition, and that is I need healthy air to maintain my good health and independence.

I avoid bonfires, barbecues and cigarette smoke. If it smells bad or smoky, I'm gone! I can't escape or control the pollution that lingers in our air. It's this air pollution that worries me most and can cause me the greatest harm.

That is why I stand firmly by the Lung Association in their efforts to make the air we breathe safer and healthier. I'm grateful to be able to share my time in support of this worthy cause. Every breath is a precious gift that should be protected.

First Published: May 31, 2012

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