Durham nonprofit helps NC mom receive lung transplant amid obstacles created by COVID-19 pandemic

Local News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — A North Carolina mom waited months for an organ transplant only to have the pandemic strike in the middle of her search.

Although COVID-19 is creating obstacles for organ donation, according to Carolina Donor Services, transplants saved a record number of lives in North Carolina in the first half of 2020.

A mom and former ER nurse, Mandy Rose tried not to let her diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension slow her down, but she couldn’t escape the disease that left her exhausted by a simple conversation.

“She was always on the couch,” recalled her son, Levi.

She was 35 when her doctor told her time was running out.

“He said, ‘I just need you to understand that you have about six months or less to live because of the strain on your heart if you don’t get a lung transplant,’” she remembered. “All I could focus on was I need to be here for my kids.”

She went on the transplant list and twice rushed to the hospital for a potential match, but each time something went wrong.

“You start getting to the point where you think, ‘Is this ever going to happen?’ Then the pandemic hits on top of that.”

Carolina Donor Services recovers organs and tissues for transplants. COVID-19 affected almost every part of that process.

“When the pandemic initially hit, we were really nervous,” explained Taylor Anderton. “People are not allowed into the hospital which is where we do so much of our work. Everything from our people approaching the families to the people going and working with the surgeons to recover the organs.”

But the organization’s adapting, and in the first half of 2020, Anderton says transplants in North Carolina reached record numbers, saving more than 600 lives, including Rose’s. On Easter Sunday she received a double lung transplant at UNC.

“My life is back in me again,” she said. “I can laugh about thing; I can breathe.”

“She can walk out to our mailbox and not have to take 13 breaks,” added Levi.

Rose takes immune-suppressing drugs and must be extra cautious during the pandemic, but her gratitude for her donor and their family, is much greater than fear.

“I’m very thankful every day,” she said. “They gave me life with my kids and that’s a gift.”

If you’d like to register to be an organ donor, go here or here.

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