“My name is Lauri Stanfield, I’m 47 years old, and I’m a bilateral lung transplant recipient. In 2014, I was a normal hard-working individual. I had been traveling with several companies throughout my employment for the last 10 years and had finally landed a job where travel wasn’t a huge requirement.
“I had just started with this new company in November 2013 and was rocking and rolling, when around May or June, my “asthma” got much worse and I was unable to walk but a few steps without having to stop and catch my breath. I was constantly using my inhaler, and my primary care doctor believed it was my asthma getting worse. By mid-July I had gone to the doctor twice and was given massive amounts of steroids, steroid injections and antibiotics. Finally, I was admitted to the hospital with a heart rate of 125 bpm and an O2 saturation of 76. The doctors had no clue how I was walking or much less conscious at that point. They admitted me for a possible pulmonary embolism; 10 minutes later the doctors ruled this diagnosis out. During the two weeks in the hospital I was tested for Legionnaires’ disease, tuberculosis, viral, bacterial and exercise pneumonia, as well as lung cancer, all which were negative. I finally had a lung test and was told I had pulmonary hypertension or PH (high blood pressure in your lungs) and informed to go home and get my affairs in order as I was terminal and going to die.
“I was in and out of the hospital at that point for the next three or four months. I then transferred from my pulmonologist to a PH specialist at Baylor University Medical Center, working to get me on the right medicine combination to slow the progression of the disease. By November 2014, I was in a wheel chair, unable to walk, talk, much less breath. I was placed in the hospital two days before Thanksgiving, and would stay there for a month for acute right heart failure and most likely would not make it to Thanksgiving. The doctors worked tirelessly to remove 70 lbs. of fluid from me in a matter of days without damaging my kidneys. They tried Veletri®, which made me worse, and a few days later I was told I had a new primary heart/lung disease called pulmonary veno-oclussive disease or PVOD (a blockage of all capillaries from the right lung to the left part of the heart). There was no cure, no medicine and only a heart/lung transplant could save me, and I was given six, maybe nine months to live. I was added to the waiting list for heart/lung transplant on December 23, 2014 and was released to go home that same day. In March 2015, I was diagnosed with my third terminal lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which then brought up my lung allocation score (LAS), used to determine priority for surgery) and I was told it would be anytime, as I had progressively gotten worse.
“Exactly five months to the day on May 22, 2015, I received a call. On Saturday morning, May 23, 2015, I was wheeled back to the operating room at Methodist Houston Hospital and received a beautiful set of lungs. My own heart was great, so the heart from the donor went to someone else who needed it more. It was the best day of my life. I was off the ventilator less than 16 hours after surgery, sitting in a chair less than 24 hours after surgery, then walking the halls the next day, and home seven days post-transplant. I was released to go back to work four months after transplant and haven’t stopped since. I work full time, take Pilates six days a week, walk on my treadmill an hour each day, and walk my dog in the evenings. I traveled out of the country to Ambergris Caye, San Pedro, Belize in October 2017 and with a guide, snorkeled the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, where I got to touch a giant sea turtle as it swam beside me. I didn’t think I would ever be able to do this, but the selfless act of my donor’s family gave me that chance, and I couldn’t be more thankful or grateful that they chose to give the gift of life in their time of grief. I love working with LifeGift, a not-for-profit organ procurement organization that recovers organs and tissue for individuals needing transplants in 109 Texas counties in North, Southeast and West Texas. I also love to tell my story and what organ donation has done for me, and how it’s affected my life as well as the lives of my families and friends.
“Although, I love to tell my story, there is a lot of stigma associated with organ donation. I’ve run into a lot of people who think if they become a registered donor, doctors will cut off the machines before I die. That’s simply untrue, and as an Ambassador of Hope for LifeGift, I work to answer that question accurately. All donors are not contacted by an organ donation agency, nor do the hospitals discuss organ donation until all measures to revive the patient from their traumatic event have been exhausted. Only then is the family advised of their options, which include organ donation and, if they decide to donate, the amount of time in which the organs are viable on artificial assistance prior to being given to the patient. Once a family decides on donation, they are given as much time as they need within that organ viability time window to spend with their loved one. Some religions do not allow blood transfusions during transplant, even with the knowledge that the patient may die without it. The medical community has varied opinions about this procedure and the majority of hospitals do not conduct dry organ transplants (meaning no blood transfusion involved with all blood circulating being the patient’s own), Because of the risk factors involved, few transplants have been conducted without transfusions. I personally received a dry organ transplant. The surgeon who performed my dry organ transplant believes recovery time is shorter with these types of transplants and that there is a less likelihood of developing antibodies of the donor, which causes rejection. Because of cultural and religious factors that stigmatize organ transplant within certain communities, it takes volunteers like me, who are recipients, living donors and donor families, to spread the word about organ donation and the positive aspects of their decision.”