“I am Michelle, a single mom of two, Michela, 17 and Mikhail, 10. We are originally from Charleston, S.C., but currently live in Bensalem, a suburb of Pennsylvania. I have been meaning to write my story, and after the last 60 days following my multiple organ transplant surgery, I decided to put my rollercoaster ride on paper.
“I was originally diagnosed in 2009, but after having pneumonia in 2017, my health deteriorated, and I was told it was time to consider a lung transplant. I started the testing at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Hospital and it was eventually determined I would need both lungs and a heart transplant. The transplant program at MUSC Hospital couldn’t do both, so my doctors sent referrals to hospitals all over the country. My first response came from a hospital in California. I knew I couldn’t afford to live out there, but was happy when I soon received a call from the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. The kids and I moved to Pennsylvania in September. By November I was hospitalized again, but this time was different. When admitted I was down to 96 pounds. My liver had been swelling for years, so I was unable to eat, and was getting weaker. I was on the highest dose of Veletri (10 vials) and the doctors weren’t even sure this dosage was safe, but there weren’t any other options. I was hospitalized 79 days before the doctors felt I was strong enough to be placed on the list for transplant! They were afraid my liver was also damaged, but my surgeon said the transplant of three organs was possible if necessary; that’s when it really got scary. I was on total parenteral nutrition because of my feeding issues and doing physical therapy to help get me stronger. Twelve days after being placed on the transplant list, I was making Valentine’s Day cards for other patients when I received the call that a donor was available. The only thing I was told about the donor was that she was 30 years old and died suddenly from a stroke. When you get that call nothing happens until the organs are checked and then you are prepped for surgery. My story isn’t typical because people usually wait months, if not years, for a donor.
“As I write this, today is April 11. I am 60 days post-transplant and recovery is a process. I have physical difficulties like the insomnia and shaking caused by the anti-rejection drugs, but I can walk without the shortness of breath, and no more pumps or needing to use oxygen. I take 26 drugs daily. The regimen takes some getting used to, but I now have a second chance at life! I get to be a mother to my children. I can now play with my son or go shopping with my daughter. The change in my life and my recovery is nothing short of amazing. I will be forever grateful to my donor and her family for the precious gifts they gave me. I will cherish our organs forever, and she can rest assured knowing her death was not in vain. Deciding to get my transplants was the best decision I have ever made. Despite the physical and financial issues, it was definitely worth it.”