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Melissa Benoit: Gift Of 8 Campaign

Personal | Burlington

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I am a 33 year old Mom, wife, daughter, niece, and friend. I was born with cystic fibrosis. Throughout my childhood I was relatively healthy. I never needed hospital admissions or intravenous antibiotics for lung infections. I did have a daily 2-3 hour chest physio routine and many pills to take just to maintain my health. Come my mid-20s, lung infections started. Over the years they became more frequent, requiring hospital admissions and IV antibiotics. They were becoming harder and harder to treat. When I was in my early 30s, I had this nagging lung infection for over a year. Things became much more complicated when I got the flu. I ended up needing oxygen 24 hours a day. I had to carry oxygen tanks wherever I went. This was all new to me. This was scary. My CF doctors advised me to come into the hospital to try a different cocktail of IV antibiotics. I remember waiting to start this new cocktail, but then everything went blank. I had gone into severe respiratory distress from the infections taking over my lungs. I was intubated, and transferred to another hospital's ICU where they could provide more advanced care. A lung transplant was now being discussed. I was completely sedated and unconscious at this point. My family had to make all medical decisions for me. Thank god we have all been open and honest with each other about our wishes. As I was waiting for lungs, I went into septic shock. The infection in my lungs had now taken over my entire body. I had to be removed from the transplant list. My family thought all hope was lost. Until our team of highly skilled surgeons came forth with a novel idea. The thought was to remove the source of infection (my lungs), put me on the most sophisticated life support devices, continue all antibiotics and hope the sepsis would resolve. And fast. This would be the first time this would be done in the world. If the sepsis went away, I could go back on the transplant list. There were many unknowns as this hadn't been done before. Would it even work? What kind of complications could there be? My family emphatically gave permission to go ahead with the procedure. I was dying in the ICU right in front of everyone's eyes. But now, there was a faint glimmer of hope. I would likely die on the operating table, but at least I would go down fighting.

Organ donation is the chance to save someone's life.

The procedure went well. I was put back on the transplant list. I waited 6 days with an empty chest cavity on life support for lungs. My donor lungs arrived. It is the greatest gift that a person can do. It saved my life. It allowed me to be a mom again and know I will be here to watch her grow. I can be with my family for many years to come. Without my donor none of this would have been possible. Don't take your organs with you when you die...we desperately need them here.

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