30 Days of PF: Embracing the Gift I’ve Been Given

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Photo courtesy of Mary Spilman

Day 7 of 30

This is Mary Spilman’s story:

I was on a Girl Scout camping trip with my granddaughter in September 2016 when I caught a cold that turned into pneumonia. The X-ray showed a spot on my lung so I had a CT scan. That’s when I was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease. I knew about the disease because my dad had been diagnosed a year prior, and I thought, “This isn’t good!”

I started supplemental oxygen in April 2017. Then, I was diagnosed with IPF since I had been exposed to mold and because of genetics. In pulmonary rehab, I learned so much about IPF, and the pulmonary exercise program helped me gain strength. The pulmonary support group helped so much, too. It was great having other people understand what you’re going through, and to gain knowledge and helpful hints.

By April 2018, I passed all my tests at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in Missouri, but they said I wasn’t ready for a transplant. So I also visited Integris in Oklahoma. By the end of May, Integris said I was ready for a transplant. I received “the call” two-and-a-half weeks later!

We made the drive in the middle of the night. At the toll booth, the clerk asked me if I knew where I was going. I told her I was going to get a new lung but felt sad for the donor’s family. She said not to feel bad because her daughter had been a donor and now she feels like she still has a part of her daughter here on earth. What are the odds of having that conversation!

We had a baby shower for our daughter, and I told her and her friend about how thankful I was even during this difficult time. Her friend gave me a metal sign she’d made that said “thankful.” I see that sign every day in my living room.

There’s so much for which I’m thankful. My transplant went well without any complications. But most importantly, I’m glad people are willing to be donors. I made a promise to take care of this gift I’ve been given.

Pulmonary Fibrosis News’ 30 Days of PF campaign will publish one story per day for PF Awareness Month in September. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofPF, or read the full series.

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