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Monette Keathley Belcher – Left Lung Recipient

“In 2000, I began having respiratory issues including emphysema and COPD.  I was hospitalized several times, after a few days my condition would improve.  I would feel better for a short period of time, and the cycle would begin again.  Over the next several years my condition continued to get worse.

On December 4th, 2006, while at an appointment with my pulmonary doctor, he informed me that test results indicated that my lungs had worsened.  He thought that I was a good candidate for a lung transplant, and asked if I was interested.

My name was added to the transplant waiting list in March 2007.  I didn’t share this information with anyone except Terry, my now husband.  My mind was full of questions and thoughts about how to get through this with as little stress as possible for all concerned.  After much thought and prayer, I decided to keep my transplant a secret until the surgery was over.  I’ve never regretted this decision, it was based on concern for the people that I love and care about.

I was called twice to the hospital for a transplant, neither time was right.  The third time was a charm; on June 16, 2008, I was called again and admitted for a transplant.  I called my oldest son, Tom, to come to the hospital during my surgery.  The surgery began at 11:00 pm, and by 4:00 am I was able to talk with Terry and Tom.  I asked them to go home and rest.  I realized that I needed to rest also.

The transplant team and nursing staff were excellent.  No one could or will ever have better caregivers.  I began my home training a few days after surgery.  I learned how to record my medications and chart daily activities.  Short walks and exercises were a pleasure.  I had been limited for years by shortness of breath.  After two weeks of hospital recovery, I had mixed emotions about leaving.  I liked the security of being close to the doctors and nurses, but wanted the comforts of home.  Everything went well at home.  I had a great support system, “my family”.  Every day was a new experience.

I grew stronger as the days went by, and achieved goals that I never thought possible.  Six months after surgery my life had totally changed.  I enjoyed walking, working, playing with grandchildren, things I had been unable to do for years.

Before and after surgery, and on my way to the hospital, I thought about the donor and their family.  It’s bittersweet how one family’s happiness is another family’s sorrow.  Many times in my mind, I composed a letter to the donor’s family.  I was unsure of how to let them know how sorry I was for their loss, and how grateful I was to have a second chance.

Seven months after my surgery, I received a letter from my donor’s mother, Kay, and his (Tony, my donor), eight year old son.  There are no words to express my feelings as I read their letters.  I read the letters over and over to myself, and to my family and friends.  Kay expressed her love for her son’s recipients.  She said her pain and sorrow were eased by knowing that Tony had saved five lives.

Kay’s family and I have become very close friends.  Tragically, Kay has lived in a hospital or nursing home for the past year and a half, due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident. She and her husband, Bill, promote organ donation at every opportunity that arises.

My life has been wonderful, thanks to Tony, a 30 year old man that made a commitment to donate his organs at the young age of 11.  Tony’s older brother lost his battle to cancer, at the age of 13.  Before his passing, he urged his family members to become organ donors.  I strongly encourage everyone to become an organ donor.  Without donors, transplants are impossible.  Please give the gift of life and become an organ donor today.”

Monette was a tireless advocate for donation.  Sadly, she passed away in 2013 at age 70.