Doctors told this woman's parents that she would not be older than 10 due to cystic fibrosis, but in a twist of fate, she survived and managed to postpone a lung transplant until she was 28.
Elizabeth Dolan, now 28, from Wichita, Kansas, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) just four months old when she stopped gaining weight due to the life-threatening chronic illness.
At the time, doctors told Elizabeth's parents to enjoy the little time they would have with her.
Elizabeth's parents tried to give her a normal upbringing despite the constant stay in the hospital and IV antibiotics.
She achieved it until her tenth birthday and her eleventh. Elizabeth managed to lead a reasonably normal life, all the way up to the age of 18, when her lung fluid tested positive for one type of bacteria. CF patients fear: Burkholderia Cepacia.
Elizabeth tried to continue as usual in college, but the bacterium ate its lung function and had to withdraw in its second year. The & # 39; normal & # 39; life seemed to slip away.
But then she got her second chance, in the form of a double lung transplant in February.
At the age of 28, Elizabeth is better than she has been in years and has managed to break her prognosis.
Elizabeth Dolan was not expected to live after 28 years because she was born with cystic fibrosis. At the age of 28 she breathed new life into California and a new set of lungs
When doctors noticed that Elizabeth & # 39; was not flourishing & # 39; shortly after birth, they conducted a series of tests to find out the cause.
What they determined was the news that no parent wants to hear. Their daughter's cystic fibrosis meant, doctors told him, that it was unlikely that she would live in her teenage years, let alone in adulthood.
& # 39; My parents were devastated. Finding their youngest daughter had a life-threatening chronic illness was like a stump in the gut, & Elizabeth said.
& # 39; How do you reconcile the life that you posed for your child with the one you are now confronted with? The doctors said that I would not survive after primary school, so they should enjoy the years they had left with me. & # 39;
Despite biennial trips to the hospital to get IV antibiotics, Elizabeth managed to spend her childhood like her peers.
& # 39; My parents were determined to give me a normal childhood, so I was treated no differently than my siblings or my peers at school. The only difference was that I had many doctor's appointments and I went to the hospital twice a year for IV antibiotics, & said Elizabeth.
After being diagnosed when she was only four months old, Elizabeth & # 39; s family did everything to give her a normal life
But on the eve of adulthood, the deterioration her family feared since her diagnosis began to be serious.
When she was 18, just when she finished high school, she contracted Burkholderia cepacia.
& # 39; Doctors always said that I would have different bacteria, but that was the one they hoped I would never get, & # 39; she remembers.
B. cepacia is a rare antibiotic-resistant bacterial species that is particularly dangerous for people with CF.
Any bacterial infection can kill a CF patient, but B. cepacia is particularly dangerous – but only for people with the disease.
B. cepacia is rarely dangerous for most people and rarely the cause of infections in CF patients, accounting for only three percent of them.
But when it affects CF patients, it is very deadly.
& # 39;I didn't know then, but my life had changed completely, whether I was ready or not, & Elizabeth said.
Far beyond the doctor's expectations, Elizabeth managed to stay free of infection and reasonably independent until she was 18. Pictured here with her beloved dog
From time to time, Elizabeth needs additional oxygen throughout her life (left). Her dog sometimes accompanies her on trips to the hospital in Stanford, where her family moved in 2016, so that Elizabeth could have better care (right)
& # 39; The bacterium … can cause an immediate and drastic decrease in lung, or a steady decline for many years. I was lucky because it was the last one for me. & # 39;
She had been excited to experience life as a normal student, but CF and B. cepacia didn't allow that for long.
Elizabeth had to move home in her second year.
Her decline was relatively slow, given the bacterium that seriously injured Elizabeth's lungs, but it was bad enough that her family wanted to be closer to the best medical care for her disease, so they moved to Palo Alto, California.
In 2016, she began to see a Stanford University specialist to delay the need for a lung transplant by strengthening her body through pulmonary rehabilitation, including breathing treatments and breast exercises.
Elizabeth has to take more than a dozen pills every day to keep her CF under control
With her team of doctors, Elizabeth was able to postpone her transplant for three years, but she was on the list by December 2018. Incredibly, it only took 60 days for a few donor lungs to become available and Elizabeth hurried to the hospital to get a transplant the next day
& # 39; At my first appointment, the pulmonologist thought he needed to transplant me right away, but thanks to his faith and determination in me, he helped stabilize my health and postpone the transplant, & # 39; said Elizabeth.
Elizabeth devoted every ounce of energy she needed to get stronger, improve her lung function, and gain weight (a constant challenge for CF patients, whose illness makes it difficult for them to get proper nutrition).
Nevertheless, Elizabeth's health had deteriorated too much in 2018 and needed constant oxygen. She was put on the transplant list in December.
& # 39; When I was listed for a transplant, I was so relieved and ready, & # 39; said Elizabeth.
& # 39; It was also difficult because my health was deteriorating, but for me to survive another person would die, which is a confusing feeling.
Elizabeth received the call to say she had a successful donor on January 31, 2019.
& # 39; I took a nap when I was called, so when the doctor said there were lungs available, I asked if he was joking, & # 39; she remembers.
& # 39; I was clambering into my apartment and trying to pack a bag while calling my parents and friends and saying I got the call.
& # 39; I never expected the call to come so quickly and I didn't pack or finish anything. & # 39;
Elizabeth & # 39; s parents hurried to the hospital to meet her and take a photo for the transplant
On January 31, 2019, Elizabeth arrived at the hospital excitedly for her transplant (left). The following day, she was operated on and she had new lungs, awake with great pain, but fortunately
The following day she underwent a bilateral lung transplant, spending less than 60 days on the transplant list.
& # 39; When I woke up from surgery, I was in great pain. I was intubated, connected to a respirator and IV pumps with various antibiotics. I was in and out of consciousness, but I could hear the voices of my nurses, & Elizabeth recalls.
& # 39; The only thing I remember from when my family and my best friend came to see me after the operation is their voice that tells me how much they loved me and that I did great. & # 39;
As bad as she needed the new lungs, and as relieved as she was to get them, her recovery proved that all the hard work she had done to postpone the transplant was not for nothing.
& # 39; The average stay in a hospital is at least two weeks, but I only spent nine days in the hospital after my operation because I did so well, & # 39; said Elizabeth.
& # 39; I believe I did so well after the operation because I tried to become as strong as possible for three years. I had lung rehabilitation before I was mentioned and while I was mentioned. & # 39;
The power with which Elizabeth has fought so hard has helped her recover so quickly, and she admits that, despite having to be vigilant since her transplant, she has a much better quality of life than before the operation.
In the beginning, Elizabeth still had a port in her chest and a long obvious seam where her chest was cracked
But she credits her years of pulmonary therapy with her unusually fast recovery
Now Elizabeth proudly wears the scars of her lung transplant surgery
Of course Elizabeth had to make some adjustments because she got her new lungs.
& # 39; I would say that some of the post-transplant problems adopt a whole new lifestyle, & # 39; she said.
& # 39; Now I have to be careful what I eat because of food-born diseases and I am extra diligent to be around sick people.
& # 39; Even catching a cold can be harmful because I am immune suppressed. That is why it is so important that everyone is vaccinated. You not only protect yourself against diseases, but you protect the immune compromised. & # 39;
Elizabeth looks ahead to a longer, easier breathing life, but she never forgets that nothing – not even new lungs – can cure CF.
& # 39; Although I have new lungs, I still have CF in my other organ systems. Transplantation is not a cure; you trade one disease for another, & she said.
# I wish I could say that I am not stopping CF, but it stopped me when I tried to finish my degree, it led me to cancel plans with friends and family or cancel vacations.
& # 39; Growing up, there were times when my parents had to make the decision about what to sacrifice so that they could pay for my medication. & # 39;
Elizabeth is grateful not only to her parents, who had to go through hardships to help her survive, but for the stranger she will never meet, who gave them their lungs and let her live longer.
& # 39; I want to make people aware of the importance of organ donation and sign up as an organ donor because it is because of my donor and their selfless and extraordinary gift that I live today, & # 39; said Elizabeth.
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