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DOWNEY - This time of year I wonder how I can ever really say thank you for the gift of life. I am alive because someone gave me their loved ones two lungs. It was his lungs that saved my life 10 years ago.
Twelve years ago my lungs began to fail. I was 42 years old and had been diagnosed with Ideopathic Pulmonary Fribrosis (IPF) a severe lung disease, that the only treatment to survive was a double lung transplant.
When I was told what I had, and that I would not live much longer without a transplant, I was in total shock! I did not want to die - I had three teenagers that needed their Mom. Toward the end there was no longer any medicine to help. The only hope for life was a donated organ.
I had no idea lung transplants existed. When my pulmonologist told me they were being performed and with much success, I was very interested and eager to be considered a candidate. At the time of my diagnosis, I probably had 1 1/2 years to live, based on the facts that length of life at that time was 18 months after diagnosis.
After all the steps of evaluations, and interviews, and tests, and more tests that nearly took a year, I was in the last stages of my disease, and getting worse by the day. I was finally placed on the transplant list on Dec. 2, 2002, and was told it would be a 3-month wait. I remember asking God for lungs for New Years, because I wanted to spend Christmas with my family.
To God be the Glory, and His perfect timing, I received my call from the surgeons while I was on my knees praying on Dec. 29, 2002 at 11:30 p.m. The surgeon said, "Mrs. Fagundo, we have your donor, a 14-year-old boy. You must be here by 5:30 am to go to surgery".
I was sad and in shock, that a young little boy had to leave this earth to save my life. I cried, I prayed, I called all my family to pray for his family, and to pray for me, as I was going to receive his gift of life!
I went to surgery Dec. 30, 2002, my prayers had been answered, I received two healthy lungs for New Years Day, my miracle.
Receiving a second chance at life through organ donation has made me understand the importance of giving thanks. I thank God, for He has given me the best 10 years of my life! Seeing my teenagers grow up into the young aspiring adults they have become has been a great reward. Walking down the aisle with my husband, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary has been my dream come true. Meeting so many beloved transplant friends these past 10 years has been an amazing support group for each of us. Losing some of those transplant friends has been the most painful experience, but knowing that we will meet again fills my heart with joy.
The best part of this 10-year journey has been sharing my story to those in need of transplants today; giving them hope, courage, strength, blessings and love, while guiding them into their new journey is the best feeling I have had all my life. I made a pact with God, that if He gave me my miracle I wanted to help all those in dire need of transplants, that were as sick or worse than I, that all He needed to do was put them in my path. And that He did these last 10 years, and continues to do so.
My Donor would be 24 yrs old today. I think of him and his family daily, and on Thanksgiving Day they are on my mind, and in my heart all day, as I thank the Lord for his precious lungs that breath for me.
Each of us has an opportunity to give of ourselves in a way that can save and enhance the lives of over 50 people. I am inspired daily that people take this opportunity and in a time of deep loss, complete strangers look beyond their own grief and give to others.
This Thanksgiving, as your family gives thanks, please consider also giving life. During 2012, the donation community has a national goal of registering 20 million Americans as organ and tissue donors. Go to donatelifecalifornia.org today or check yes at the DMV. Your gift of life will be a lasting legacy of generosity and love.
Carolyn Fagundo is a Downey resident.
Published: November 22, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 32