Giving so others can live

Shirley Thompson poses for a portrait at Panera on Fleming Island. About five years ago Thompson received a double lung transplant after her original lungs failed during a separate surgery due to a preexisting condition.
FLEMING ISLAND – Shirley Thompson found herself suddenly out of breath.

She went to the doctor and, eventually, was diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. She had high blood pressure in her lungs and the condition progressed until she needed oxygen 24 hours a day.

This was a burden, but she could manage. Breathing was a struggle, but, being a strong-willed woman, it was nothing she couldn’t power through. Then, due to the condition, she discovered that she would need an emergency hysterectomy.

This is a common procedure among women, usually causing little to no problems, but with Thompson’s PAH, the anesthesia was more than her body could handle and her organs shut down during the surgery. Her lungs could not be salvaged and suddenly she needed a double lung transplant.

Thompson was placed in a medically-induced coma until doctors could figure out how to proceed.

“They said I wouldn’t find a match in time,” Shirley said. “The doctors said I wouldn’t make it.”

Shirley’s husband Rob was there, waiting for his wife to get out of a routine surgery, when doctors told him he had better go into the room to see Shirley.

“They said their worst fears had come true,” Rob said. “They called us in to say our goodbyes. I can’t tell you how much crying we did in that hospital.” Continue reading

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