Moline, IL. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, there are more than 100,000 people on the national transplant waiting list and every nine minutes another person is added. Every donor can save eight lives and improve more than seventy-five lives. In 2020, thirty-nine thousand transplants were performed nationwide. Behind each of these numbers there is a person impacted by organ donation.
Meet Silvia Rosales from Moline, IL. Her journey began fifteen years ago when she had symptoms of a nasty cold. She thought she could make it better through some home remedies and over-the-counter medicines from her local pharmacy. Unfortunately, the stubborn cold would not let up.
“During winter I noticed that I was getting out of breath when I walked,” Silvia Rosales shared.
She knew that was not normal, so she made an appointment with her doctor to get her lungs checked. At first her doctor thought it was a case of bronchitis.
“Once he listened to my lungs he said it did not sound right and sent me to get x-rays,” Rosales remembered undergoing different exams to find the root cause of what was going on with her lungs.
The x-ray showed that there was something wrong. The doctor was worried that Mrs Rosales might have cancer. Her doctor scheduled a biopsy of her lungs and while it showed that it was not cancer, it revealed hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an immune system disorder where lungs get inflamed as a result of an allergic reaction that can be caused by a microorganism, plant or animal proteins or chemicals inhaled unknowingly. Rosales explained that her doctor was not sure what exactly provoked the disease but it could have been caused by the chemicals that Rosales used daily at her job as a cleaner.
This disease has no cure. If the lungs get severely scarred, the doctor might recommend a lung transplant, but since it is an immune system disorder, patients will require long-term care to make sure the lungs do not get inflamed again.
After the biopsy the doctor started treating Rosales with steroids.
“I had a cough that was exhausting,” Rosales said.
There came a point that the disease advanced and the Quad Cities did not have specialists to help Rosales. She was sent to Iowa City. The specialists treated her, but the disease continued to advance.
“There came a moment when I could not breathe when I walked,” Rosales said.
The doctors told her she needed to have oxygen to help her breathe, but the disease was not getting better. It got worse.
“In May of 2020 my right lung collapsed,” said Rosales.
She was rushed to the hospital in Rock Island, but soon it was evident that she needed more care and help than the local hospital could provide. Rosales ended up going to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where they ran different tests and did more treatments. Ultimately, she was put on the donor waiting list.
“In July of 2020 I received a call. They said they had the lungs for me,” Rosales remembered.
Her lung transplant surgery was scheduled on July 14, 2020.
“I was not scared when I went into the operating room,” Rosales shared. “Above all, I put my life in God’s hands. And He gave me another opportunity.”
After her lung transplant surgery she was sent to rehabilitation and therapy.
“I could not walk,” Rosales explained. “They were teaching me everything as if I was a baby.”
After 2 months of therapies and rehabilitation she was allowed to return home to continue with her therapies in the Quad Cities.
“They said everything looked good and the lungs were not rejected [by my body],” Rosales said.
A year has passed since her double lung transplant surgery. Today Rosales remains thankful to the unknown donor and sometimes she wishes she knew the donor that gave her this gift of life. She explained that many people don’t realize how an organ donation can save a person’s life. Her heart is filled with gratitude for her lung donor. She hopes to one day meet the donor’s family.
“I would love to meet my lung donor’s [family],” she explained. “But I would not know what to say to them. There are no words to express my gratitude.”
Nowadays, she is happy and even though COVID 19 is something that poses even more danger to her than other people, she tries to enjoy this new opportunity in life.
“God gave me another chance and here I am,” she said.
Silvia Rosales and her family are very grateful to everyone who kept her in their thoughts and prayers. She wants to thank everyone from the bottom of her heart, including her medical team and all the medical workers who were there for her during this life-saving journey. They did not just save her life, they gave her a chance to live longer and enjoy the love of her family and friends.
“We are thankful to all the people who prayed for me. We are thankful to the donor. We are thankful to everyone who helped us economically. We are thankful to the transplant team and nurses,” expressed Rosales.
To learn more about organ donation or to sign up to become a donor visit https://www.organdonor.gov/