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Nicole Brewer of Westminster, CO

I received a pair of lungs five years ago! I was an athlete from youth and even played collegiate soccer! I loved to run and workout! When I was 21 years old, I developed an autoimmune disease, Lupus. This primarily affected my joints (of which I thought), so I continued running and being active.

My husband and I got married in 2002, 2 years after my diagnosis and we proceeded to lead a ‘normal’ life. However, my health started to decline and in March of 2003, not even a year after being married, I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) and my initial diagnosis of Lupus was switched to Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder (Scleroderma/Lupus). PH is high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs, which can lead to heart failure. Because the PH affected both the heart and the lungs, I had to be extra careful with my activity level.

After first getting diagnosed and receiving treatment, my PH was for the most part, under control. I went back to school and got my masters and then worked full-time for a couple of years. However, with time, my PH gradually grew worse. In November of 2007, I was placed on the transplant list. After exhausting 7 different medications and even participating in a study in Los Angeles, lung transplantation was the only means left for survival. I was on oxygen 24/7 and moved around in a wheelchair. My pressures continued to climb and my heart was bearing the effects and was sent into heart failure.

It wasn’t a time of despair, it was a time of faith and hope. I endured a seven week stay at the hospital, hoping & just waiting for that pair of lungs. I had water retention due to the heart failure, so it took a while to get all that water out of my body. We spent Christmas and New Years in that hospital room waiting for the next unknown.

I finally got those new lungs in April of 2008, and a new chance at life. I was cured of PH. Never did I think that would happen. It’s a scary experience, because there are so many unknowns and uncertainties. But, it gives you an opportunity to slow down, to reflect on yourself and others, and focus on what’s truly important in life.

A year ago, I was diagnosed with chronic rejection. My lung function has decreased dramatically and I may need another transplant. I don’t know what the future holds but I am not sad. I am blessed that I have had these five years, because in these five years, I’ve been able to really open my eyes to the world. I’ve been able to work on changing myself and my heart and to experience life in a whole different way. I have met three new nephews and a niece along the way, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Faith plays a huge role in my life and that’s how I keep going, keep living, and keep hoping. And I am forever grateful for the pair of lungs I received, the donor who gave his or her life, to keep me alive and give me my second chance!

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