As the grateful recipient of a double lung transplant, Natalie is embarking on the challenging and exciting journey of recovering (surviving the first year) and experiencing life as a healthy woman for the first time in 12 years.
In 2005 at the tender age of 20, Natalie was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension, a debilitating and incurable disease. By 2012 she had a permanent line through her chest that fed medication directly to her heart 24/7. She carried a medication pump like a purse everywhere she went because without it she would die. The disease slowly took away her career as a chef, and her ability to participate in life the way that average healthy people take for granted. No hiking, no swimming, no dancing. Eventually taking more than six steps up a staircase would leave her heart racing and her lungs gasping for air. She was told by doctors that she would likely not live past the age of 25.
Although she proved that prognosis wrong, by 32 her quality of life was quickly diminishing. In August of this year, Natalie spent 15 days in the hospital fighting an infection and it was clear that without a transplant, things were likely to get much worse. We were all scared.
Thankfully she fought hard to kick the infection and became well enough to receive new lungs on Sept 7. That’s when, after years of struggling, the real work began. She spent 33 days in ICU post-op as her body slowly accepted her new lungs. She was intubated, ventilated, and fed through a tube, unable to talk or walk. 40 days without even a sip of water. After several days, Natalie began to breathe on her own, and slowly learned to walk on shaky, atrophied legs. I don’t think any of us realized quite how vulnerable she would be. But she rose to the challenge with her trademark work ethic – no excuses, no short cuts – and she’s killing it! Now she gets to leave the hospital and go home to take on the next stage in this long and complex process.
Transitioning to life at home requires very careful planning and preparation. The first year is extremely risky, and the first 3 months are critical. Setting up an ideal environment for healing will be expensive. Medical equipment, pulmonary rehab, physical therapy and vigilant protection from infection are just the tip of the iceberg. She will have many limitations: a cocktail of medications (and side effects), no bending or lifting, no public transit, very limited contact in public places, daily blood work, etc. For Natalie to have the best chance of a full recovery she will need a lot of support. The statistics can be terrifying, but the success stories are nothing short of magical.
After spending her entire adult life as a “sick person”, with countless days in hospital, Natalie has an opportunity to live a whole new life. To hike with her partner, run with her dog, and swim in the ocean she loves so much! This new life will still have its limitations, but it will open up a whole new world if we can help her through this crucial recovery period.
Natalie is a remarkable woman. She is loving, kind, smart, funny, generous, hard-working, honest and humble. She is always striving for personal growth, always looking for ways to be of service to her friends, family, family and community. She is full of gratitude and forgiveness and never denies someone a second chance.
Will you link arms with us to give her a second chance to live a healthy life, and experience the magic of a successful transplant? Your support is greatly appreciated. Whether it’s a donation, big or small, thoughts & prayers, positive energy, sharing a link to this page… it all helps!
(Note - special thank you to Dinah for wording Natalie’s story so eloquently and compassionatey. You have indeed captured the essence brilliantly. )
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