It is impossible to predict the future and life as we know it can change dramatically in an instant. At work on a summer day in 2004 I was overwhelmed by an uncontrollable cough. It became so annoying that I left work and drove myself to the local hospital to get it checked. That was the beginning of a nightmare that brought my life to a complete halt.
Needless to say I got out of the hospital feeling worse than ever before. I could not walk a short distance without the pervasive feeling of exhaustion. After follow up X-rays, cat scans, bronchoscopy, and lung biopsy, I decided to research the best doctors for lung disease which led me to Dr. Arcasoy at Columbia-Presbyterian where I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease unknown to me at the time. And the most devastating news was to learn that it has no cure.
I was treated to the point where I became stable and able to function with limited capabilities. I had to use supplemental oxygen to help with activities requiring exhaustion. I was put on the inactive list for transplant at the time. However, when the transplant rule changed I was removed from the list and continued to follow up with Dr. Arcasoy. Things went downhill in October of 2012 when I suffered a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). I was hospitalized for a month and was immediately put on the lung transplant list. While I was at the hospital I received the first call for a donor lung. It was my first dry run and a few weeks later I was discharged from the hospital, completely disabled. I came home with a double tank of Oxygen for a nasal cannula and a mask. I was dependent on oxygen 24/7.
From there, I had another eight dry runs which encompassed about a year on the wait list. Every time I got a call I would go through the same exhaustive process of pre-op workup and at the last minute find out that the lungs were bad. A strong will to live and a positive attitude kept me going in the face of so many disappointments. My faith kept telling me that there must be a reason why every call is always the right time but not the right lungs. I thank God for my unwavering husband, my children, extended family and friends, and the doctors and staff at Columbia-Presbyterian Lung Transplant Program. Through all the suffering, they were so encouraging! No one can get through this debilitating disease without an army of well meaning individuals behind you.
Yes, my transplant finally happened in October 2013 on the tenth call. There was no greater joy and apprehension than hearing that it’s a “Go”. I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions and uncertainty took center stage. Post-transplant I had some complications and was in the hospital for about three weeks. However, all was taken care of and I was able to pull through. Today, two and a half years out, I feel great! I am back at work. I am able to do everything that I used to do. It is an incredible feeling to have been given a second chance at life. I am eternally grateful for this life saving opportunity made possible by the donor and donor family, the amazing doctors and transplant team, and my caregivers.
As you know, science and technology are evolving and doctors and scientists are continuously in quest for cures and ways to improve and/or save lives. As for the treatment of lung diseases, they have come a long way, but more still needs to be done. I encourage you to support the research underway at Columbia-Presbyterian through The Lung Transplant Project. The doctors, scientists and researchers are dedicated and determined to achieve greater success in disease management and treatment for both pre and post transplant patients. They are committed in their effort to one day eliminate rejection, infection, and make the transplant experience a positive one for all patients. Please consider making a generous donation to this life-saving non-profit organization. Your donation will go a long way to help continue the research that saves lives.
Kettlie Nestor-Hyppolite – Transplanted October 26, 2013