To Be in Charge of One's Own Life is an Amazing Gift
A diagnosis of Bronchiolitis Obliterans followed and over the next few years, Stanczak’s lungs deteriorated eventually causing her to need a lung transplant surgery. One year ago, on July 23, 2014, she was one of the first Northwestern Medicine lung transplant patients. To date, the program has treated 15 patients thanks to a multidisciplinary team of almost 30 experts from surgeons to social workers, pulmonologists, nurses and more.
“Lung transplantation provides patients like Lynn who have chronic and life threatening diseases a new set of lungs and a vastly better quality of life,” said Malcolm DeCamp, MD, chief of the division of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “After the surgery, these patients leave our hospital with bright futures. They are excited to spend time with family and friends, celebrate holidays and even return to work. I’m proud of the work our Northwestern Medicine team has done in one year and look forward to helping more patients in the years to come.”
A few weeks later, Stanczak received the call she’d been waiting for.
“When I received the call I was in shock," Stanczak said. “I thought I was dreaming. I screamed to my husband that lungs were available. Everything happened so fast, I had so many emotions swirling through my mind, not the least of which was the fact that while I was overjoyed there was a family mourning the death of their loved one. This is the time you have to have faith in God. I really felt like God had orchestrated these events and my life was about to change again drastically.”
Lungs are one of the most difficult organs to transplant and manage. Unlike other organs, lungs are exposed to the external atmospheric elements during normal respiration, leading to possible infection and damage, said Ankit Bharat, MD, Lynn’s surgeon and the surgical director of lung transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“These surgeries are complex and timing is critical,” Bharat said. “Surgeons only have about six hours to transport lungs from a donor and transplant into the recipient.”
Stanczak’s life post-transplant is remarkably different than her life before the surgery. Today, she has full conversations without having to stop to catch her breath. She’s not afraid of stairs or worried she’ll need a wheelchair. Only two months after her surgery, she and her husband danced at a wedding. And every day, she’s thankful for the gift of organ donation and for the anonymous person who changed her life.
“To do rather mundane things we all take for granted like laundry, grocery shop, volunteer at church, make dinner, take my dogs for walks, are all so important to me,” Stanczak said. “I have my freedom back. To be in charge of one’s own life is an amazing gift.”
Learn more about the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program online or to schedule an appointment call 312.695.LUNG.