Rise' Pine- double lung transplant journey
As I blew out my birthday candles at my thirty-sixth birthday party, I made a special prayer that I could stay alive for one more year. It was not too long before that time that I'd been told that I had less than a year to live, because I was dying from Cystic Fibrosis. In the event that I needed emergency assistance, I decided to leave my apartment door unlocked. This plan of action saved my life. On January 18, 1996, my respiratory therapist found me semi-coherent, on the bathroom floor, with my canula detached from my face. Sandra had come to give me a breathing treatment. I was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. When I became conscious, I looked over at my parents in the ICU and felt a great appreciation that they were called to meet me at the hospital as I lived alone.
A few evenings later, I asked the ICU nurse to help me get out of bed. I wanted to walk in place for twenty minutes, because I knew how important it was for me to get some exercise. I wore an oxygen tube in my nose as I proceeded to slowly march in place. While I held the nurses hand, I said aloud, "I will never give up! I want to live! I want to live!" It made me feel so alive, unlike the way I looked. I felt a little shaky and my skin tone was a bluish color. After I said my famous marching words, I looked over my shoulder to see my parents' reaction. Their emotional reaction will remain indelibly ingrained in my memory. My determination was so alive. I was going to fight this battle!
Later this evening, I felt very peaceful along with feeling a sense of urgency. Although I was physically alone, I felt a great love, I felt surrounded by our heavenly father. As I started to pray, I felt every fiber of my being absorbed by Him. I said, "Dear God, please, if there is one night that I need and want new lungs, it is tonight." I always prayed every night, but I never expressed such a desperate, urgent plea for help.
Hours after midnight, the lights flicked on. There was my doctor who exclaimed, "Risa, you are going to Chicago tonight! They have lungs for you!" At first, I thought I was dreaming. All of my favorite therapists and nurses helped me to get ready to leave the hospital. I was living in Florida, so my family and I flew by air ambulance to Loyola University Medical Center.
When I reached the operating room, I said in a very upbeat voice, "Bye mom and dad, I will see you both tomorrow." When I met my surgeon I said, "Take me, I’m all yours." I learned that I was on the respirator for an additional eight hours after the operation. When I woke up from surgery, my first request was for ice, because my throat was very dry. I then asked if I could listen with a stethoscope to hear my clear sounding new lungs. Later, I asked for a mirror so I could see my lips and fingernails, which were pink. The entire transplant team was very impressed with my enthusiasm.
A nurse in the ICU called my parents in to visit me. When I saw my parents I was not yet able to move much. My mother had tears in her eyes as she exclaimed, "Today just happens to be my birthday, this is the best birthday present I ever received!" The next day, my father asked me, "How does it feel to breathe?" I replied. "I feel like I have superwoman lungs!" I smiled, took a breath, and laughed. Within a mere ten days, I was discharged from the hospital. It was necessary for me to live in Chicago for three months to facilitate post-transplant observation.
My father philosophized, "You have to appreciate where you have been in order to appreciate where you are going." These words of wisdom helped me cope emotionally with some minor setbacks. I did experience some rejection and a minor infection. I have been rejection free for five and a half years and have had no serious signs of infection.
To write a letter of appreciation to my donor family was paramount to me. I have written four letters in the past six years. I wrote about the gratitude and respect that I have for the family. They had the foresight to see life for another human being. They gave me the chance to breathe freely for the first time in my life. I always pray for them. I have not received any replies so far. I had an intuitive feeling about his race and his birthday. I found this to be a true discovery by family services from the organ donor program.
After returning to Hollywood, Florida, I contacted several charitable organizations and civic groups to arrange speaking engagements on organ donation. This is my way of giving back to society for the precious gift that was given to me. In 2000, I created www.transplantbuddies.org. Many patients, both pre- and post-transplant, enjoy helping one another on a daily basis. There are topics for almost all facets of transplantation. I also participate at Jackson Memorial Hospital in their mentoring program.
I enjoy fast walking, aerobics and weight training. Deep-breathing exercises are part of my routine during resting periods. I believe in holistic therapies and find a great benefit from them. I met a wonderful man named Cary shortly after my transplant; I am very serious about him.
Facing a near-death experience has taught me a great deal of appreciation for life, for my family, friends and doctors who have stood by my side through good and bad times alike. Regardless of what I might experience in the future, I feel as though I can handle anything. However long I shall live will be god's plan. As one can imagine, this life changing experience has enlightened my spirit in many ways.
In 2004, I was diagnosed with chronic rejection. I lived with a great lung capacity for eight years. I decided to go back to Loyola Medical Center in Chicago for a treatment called Photopheresis. After three months, I decided the treatment was not helping and decided to head back to my home in Florida.
My transplant team at Jackson Memorial Hospital re-transplanted me in July of 2005. Fortunately, my health improved day by day once I left the hospital. I had a difficult operation due to the fact I had my lungs for almost ten years. I had to have a tracheostomy which at first seemed difficult. I received Campath induction therapy with my second transplant and I believe that was a big help especially for re-transplantation as I no longer have to take steroids.
I never dreamed that I would do as well as I did especially for a second transplant. I will be 49 years old in October of 08. Twelve days before my second transplant, Cary and I were married. We are living life to the fullest. God Bless my Donor and his Family.