Mother-of-four shares story of transplant journey
Patient Stories

Mother-of-four shares story of transplant journey

About 15 years ago, Anita’s respiratory system took a hit that it never seemed to recover from. At first, she was diagnosed with whooping cough, and shortly after developed pneumonia.

“After that, every time I got a cold, it seemed to get worse and worse. Over time, it got worse to the point where I could barely breathe when doing normal things like walking and talking on the phone. I couldn’t breathe because I was coughing so much, I thought I was going to choke,” she recalled.

She lived in Cairns then and decided to move to Brisbane for a second medical opinion. A specialist from a southside hospital conducted breathing tests.

“He said I have an idea about what’s going on, but I need to do a biopsy to confirm it,” Anita recalled.

A few weeks later, the doctor told her that she had scarring on her lungs, or Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and Chronic Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (CHP).

“He told me at that point that, based on the scarring and everything else, I had 6-12 months to live,” she said.

 

Anita

 

Anita began chemotherapy treatment, but after several sessions, they stopped as there was no improvement in the condition of her lungs.

“It was at this point that my specialist at the time requested that the transplant team elevate the urgency of my case, and I met with Professor Peter Hopkins, the Director of the Queensland Lung Transplant Service at The Prince Charles Hospital,” she said.

“When I went home, I was a bit nervous and scared, but I proceeded with the steps and underwent all the tests and assessments.”

Her second chance at life did arrive a few short months later.

“I got a call in the morning telling me they didn’t think the lungs would work but that I should still come in. I thought at the time that I was not ready for this,” she recalled.

Anita’s transplant surgery was performed in early December, and she was determined to get home in time to spend Christmas with her kids.

“I was walking around the halls and doing what I could to get stronger and more mobile again. I was so happy on Christmas Eve when they let me go home,” she said.

While Anita says that the first year following the surgery was particularly difficult, she tried to take it all in her stride. And she acknowledges the incredible gift that’s allowed her to create more cherished moments with her four children.

“I wanted to see my kids grow up, get married, have kids, and accomplish whatever they want. And at the end of the day, I’m more than grateful to be alive. I’ve been here five extra years; I didn’t anticipate it. Every day that I have is a blessing,” she said.

 

Anita

 

Anita is a very busy mother of 4. Her youngest child was just a baby when she received her life-changing diagnosis.

“I look at things very differently now with extreme curiosity, like a little child. This second chance has opened my eyes to see the whole universe differently. I’m more intrigued by nature and how the world works. I notice birds chirping and trees on the highway—things I wouldn’t have really noticed before,” she said.

Anita strives to help others through her experience and regularly shares information online about lung conditions, her transplant journey, and her recovery.

“It’s become my passion to educate people and share what transplantation brings and how much it does help people,” Anita said.

With the gift of her new lungs, Anita has directly benefited from life-saving medical research and hopes she can encourage others to invest in those who are trying to improve the lives of others.

“I believe research is vital because lung disease and lung cancer affect so many people,” she said.

 

Anita

 

Anita is currently studying art therapy and hopes one day she can offer those services to others impacted by transplantation.

“I know how hard it is to wait and find out that you might not be able to get a transplant. Even before the transplant, I was very anxious and depressed that first year. It can be challenging to talk about how they’re feeling.”

In the meantime, Anita will continue to spread awareness and messages of hope.

Can you support the Tour de Brisbane riders, raising crucial funds for research and care advancements pre-, during, and post-organ transplantation that will save more lives—just like Anita?

Click here to donate or register to ride.  

Published: March 26, 2024

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