At an age when many people were healthy and energetic, Tricia Lawrenson was learning that health problems were a fact of her life.
When she was 24, Tricia’s Cystic Fibrosis (CF), had progressed to the point where her doctors decided she needed a double lung transplant. As scary a prospect as that was, her circumstances were made doubly complicated by the news that she was pregnant. “The transplant pulmonologist and the OB/GYN gave both me and my unborn child a 50% chance of surviving the pregnancy. And, without even having to ask, I knew that choosing to keep the baby would mean that getting back on the transplant list was a long shot. Still, I chose life for my unborn child.”
Tricia’s health deteriorated during her pregnancy, so the decision was made to perform a C-section when her baby was only 24 weeks and 4 days. Gwyneth Rose, born weighing just under 1 lb, 6 oz. and measuring 12 inches long, had to spend 18 weeks in the NICU before her parents were able to take her home. Tricia, at that time in an induced coma, remained on the ventilator and in the hospital for four months, before finally receiving the news that her CF lungs would be replaced with the lungs of an unselfish donor.
Though Tricia did not reject her new lungs after surgery, she did have issues with a lung infection and was consequently diagnosed with Post-Transplant Lymphoma. Fortunately, with a strong team at her back, Tricia was able to fight this cancer. For the next few years, life was beautiful for Tricia and her family. Unfortunately, her newfound peace was not to be, and Tricia was forced to face new health challenges stemming from old problems. The development of a difficult-to-treat chronic infection meant she would need yet another double lung transplant. “I learned a hard lesson during those next several months. Being relisted for a second transplant is rare and far more difficult than being listed the first time, and I became frustrated and disheartened.”
Tricia’s breathing continued to become more difficult until she was once again very near death. However, her life changed on May 13, 2013: the day she received her second double lung transplant. She beat all the odds and, in her own words, “Since my second transplant, beautiful things have happened. … Both my children inspire me daily. My husband continues to be my rock and best caretaker and advocate for all three of us. My journey continues. I still stay in touch with many of my doctors due to their dedication, persistent advocacy for their patients, compassion, hope, and great passion at being extraordinary physicians.”
Tricia is eternally grateful to her donors and their families for making the decision to give her a second, and third, chance at life. She was so moved by her experience that she now spends her spare time advocating for others and spreading awareness about the importance of organ donation.
Tricia’s story is an inspiring one of a woman and her family who kept up the fight in the face of overwhelming health challenges, and who are here today thanks to the selfless donation of much-needed organs. If you are interested in becoming an organ donor, you can check out https://organdonor.gov/index.html to see if it’s right for you. You or someone you know may someday save a life, just like Tricia’s.