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Saved by family: woman’s mother and sister donate parts of their lungs
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Wednesday, July 17, 2013 4:58PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 17, 2013 6:35PM MDT
A woman’s decade-long wait for donor lungs has ended, and she’s beating the odds – after her sister and mother donated parts of their own lungs to save her life.
Only a few weeks ago, Lorna Langer was losing her battle with cystic fibrosis.
The illness had been attacking her lungs, and although the 39-year-old had been on the organ transplant list waiting for new lungs for about 10 years, no donors had surfaced.
“Because I’m only 4’ 10”, I’m waiting for pediatric lungs,” Langer said in an interview with CTV News in April.
Weeks later, everything has changed for Langer.
“Before the surgery I was working at 26 percent lung function,” Langer said Wednesday.
“I took a deep breath, and it went right down to the bottom of my lungs.”
The drastic change came after Langer discovered her mother Sandy Langer and sister Vera McGrath were both matches, and they could each donate a lobe of their lungs. Most people’s lungs are made up of five lobes.
The organ donation would be made through a procedure rarely performed in Canada – both need to meet strict criteria.
The donors need to be the right size, and have the same blood and tissue type, and the surgery comes along with serious risks.
“They were really hesitant to operate on me because I have four kids, because there’s a one to two percent chance of death,” McGrath said.
Despite the odds, there were no second thoughts for McGrath and Langer when it came to saving Lorna’s life.
“For me, it’s absolutely amazing that I can give her life twice,” McGrath said, laughing.
The trio underwent the 10-hour procedure together, and five weeks later, Langer’s condition has taken a complete turn.
“She’s gone from someone who’s been bed-ridden in hospital facing death, to now feeling pretty good and having a good outlook on life,” Dr. Dale Lien said.
Lien said Langer is fortunate, since one in three people waiting for donor lungs dies on the waiting list.
The family is also enjoying the special bond that came with the donation.
“It’s neat, just having both of them inside; they’re part of me forever now,” Langer said.
The sky is the limit for Langer – who plans on walking, or possibly even running during the upcoming “Run for the Lung”, set for Sunday, August 25.
With files from Carmen Leibel