Most people wouldn’t look back at a week-long stay in the hospital as ideal, but for one local couple that has been at Jewish Hospital in Louisville since last Wednesday, this week has been perfect.
It was reported in an earlier issue of the Sun that Springfield native Lisa Hamilton -- who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at an early age -- was waiting to be placed on a list for a double-lung transplant.
She received the call to be listed soon after that report, and was placed at the top of the list for a transplant from the next available blood type “B” donor.
After only a week of waiting, she and her husband, Ray, got the call on Jan. 24 at 9:15 p.m. that a donor had been found.
“We were just getting home from Wal-Mart, and we were backing in the driveway, and her phone rang and she looked at it and said, ‘I think this is the call,’” Ray said.
Minutes later, the couple was on their way to Jewish Hospital in Louisville.
At 5:10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Lisa entered surgery to receive her new set of lungs.
She was in surgery for roughly six hours, and Ray said it was an emotional time when the surgeon informed the family at 11 a.m. that the surgery was complete and had gone perfectly.
The doctor said he couldn’t have designed a set of lungs to be a better match than the ones Lisa received.
“The surgeon came out at 11 o’clock when he was done and said it was a textbook, perfect surgery, and it was a perfect match on lungs. That just doesn’t happen,” Ray said.
Perfect was the word the surgeon kept going back to, which is significant because nothing about the process is expected to be perfect. However, the surgery went perfectly and the lungs were a perfect match. Even the antibodies in the donor’s blood were a 100 percent match, which is unheard of, according to Ray.
By 2 p.m. on Thursday, Lisa no longer needed assistance from a ventilator to breath, and she took her first breaths with only the support of the new lungs.
Ray said he could see a change in his wife’s appearance from the moment he saw her following the surgery, saying her skin had more color than he’d seen in years.
“I came around the corner and looked at her and she was glowing, and I was just like, ‘Wow,’” he said.
Typical recovery time from the operation is 10 to 14 days, but Ray said that with the pace that Lisa is recovering, he would be surprised if she’s not back in Springfield much sooner.
“If she keeps progressing the way she has, I think she’ll be home next week,” he said.
Even now, Ray said the couple is being warned of potential risks, but with everything Lisa has gone through up to this point, he said they’re less concerned with the future, and more concerned with the present.
“They keep telling us it could be a roller coaster ride, we could have setbacks, we could have this and we could have that,” he said. “Yes we could. There are a whole lot of ifs. I’m just concentrating on what’s going on right now. If there are more trials and tribulations for us to go through, then I’ll step in that one tomorrow, or whenever it comes, and I’m not the least bit worried about it.”
The Hamiltons had many friends and family at the hospital to support them, along with countless others that Ray said were sending prayers their way.
He has been keeping friends and family up to date with posts to the couple’s Road to Transplant Facebook page, which has grown to 128 members. He said it was everyone’s prayers that has helped make this happen.
“I know it was through prayer that Lisa got listed on Wednesday, got the call on the following Tuesday, and was already sitting up in a chair and talking on Friday,” he said.
Ray added that the most important part of the entire process* was that the donor’s family supported his or her decision to donate. While a person may decide to be a donor, that decision only comes to fruition if the family is aware of the person’s status as a donor, and agrees to grant that wish.
“The biggest thing I want, is to express my gratitude to the donor and the donor’s family, because without the family supporting the donor, this miracle couldn’t happen,” he said.