Lynn's Story

My name is Lynn Coleman and I am a 57-year-old single lung recipient. My transplant was performed at USC University Hospital in Los Angeles.

I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis when I was 24 years old. It was 30 years from the time that I was diagnosed until I received my gift of a new lung. The last fifteen years of that time I was on supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day.

I had pretty much accepted my disease and figured my life would always be that way. One day when I went for a routine checkup with my pulmonologist, he shook up my comfortable little world when he suggested a transplant.

I went home very frightened and very depressed. Then I began to think of the possibilities. If I had the transplant I would be able to breathe. To be able to breathe before I left this earth had been my wildest fantasy for many years. I got myself in the best shape possible, training at the gym five days a week, carrying my oxygen tank with me. I waited 20 months and a day in anticipation of my dream coming true.

As I waited to go into surgery I remember thinking how it was a joyous time for me, but what a horrible night it must be for my donor family. I could not imagine the emotions they must have been feeling.

My transplant went extremely well. I was home in seven days and returned to work three weeks later. Then the real journey began. The emotion of receiving my "gift of life" and the thoughts of my donor's death made it bittersweet. A year after my transplant I wrote a letter to my donor family. It was one of the most emotional things I have ever done. After writing the letter I began a real grieving process for my donor.

My donor family replied. We met on May 20, 2002 at One Legacy, the organ procurement organization for our area. The meeting was filmed and appeared on NBC's Life Moments last fall. My donor was Cynthia de los Reyes, a 47-year-old social worker. I met her two daughters. We stay in touch and see each other from time to time. Erin, Delilah and I participated in the 5K Run for Life on April 26, 2003 to promote organ donation. What a celebration of Cynthia's life! I have met their brother Larry who is in the Army and Cynthia's sister Mary. I think we are all healing together. We have a very unusual and beautiful connection.

In 2002, I participated in the US Transplant Games in Orlando, Florida. I ran the 100-yard dash, and also ran a 4x100 relay with three other women, all of whom had received new lungs. What an amazing feeling to complete that race. I played basketball on the men's team and won a bronze medal. The games were more than I could have ever dreamed.