How a Lung Transplant Refocused Me on What Really Counts

Not many people can say they had a second chance at life. But, thanks to organ donation, I can. And I'm not just alive -- I'm living. My feet hit the floor every morning because there is no better motivation than clear purpose, which for me is motherhood.

| 4 min read
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Fanny Vlahos
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A little more than five years ago I received a lifesaving double lung transplant (We hosted quite the shindig in my honor!). I went from perfectly healthy to transplant in 14 months, so my decline was quick. By most predictions, I had only months to live.

Here's a bit of context: I had the good fortune of knowing what a “good” and easy life was. I had a great childhood. I graduated from two law schools, got married, and shortly thereafter, I got pregnant with my son. I thought I wanted it all. I thought I wanted to be a great wife, homemaker, attorney, and mother. Until I was forced to fight and beg for my life.

I had a 10-month-old son at the time of my transplant, so not living was not an option. While waiting for my donor lungs, I spent countless hours of crying and pleading with whatever higher power there may be to not leave my son without his mother. I also wondered what would my life look like post-transplant.

When people are on their death bed, no one ever wishes they had committed more time to their careers. As I waited for my transplant, I realized I didn't want that either. Not once did I ever plead for more time to get to that big corner office that I was so convinced that I wanted. All I begged for was more time to be my son's mother.

So, yes, my life has changed. Besides physically giving me a new life, my transplant led me to reevaluate what I wanted out of it.

Without my transplant, I wouldn't have (a) decided to use my voice to become an advocate for people who need transplants, or (b) come to appreciate and value my son and motherhood like I do post-transplant. All that pain and suffering had a purpose, and I'm grateful for the perspective it gave me.

What does life mean for me now? It means a lot of things that I didn't anticipate 10 years ago. I love the law and what being an attorney represents, but instead of chasing the highest payday, I now want to use my voice to inspire and fight for those who feel there is no fight left in them. My life now includes bringing awareness to an issue that will literally save lives and change policy in this country. It means that my value isn't measured by the numbers on my income tax return but by what my son will come to appreciate about our relationship.

Although being an advocate and using my voice for the greater good is important to me now, there is no greater role in my life than mother. My goal is for my son to know that I am committed to him and his development 100 percent.

What some may consider inconsequential interactions with their kids, I won't take for granted anymore. I want to spend time with him making arts and crafts for his class or volunteering at his extracurricular activities. I want to be the crazy mother cheering him on at every event or game when I can. And don't worry, he can always hear me when I'm there. See, right before I was transplanted, I could barely muster enough energy and breath to talk, let alone yell and cheer, so I don't take that simple privilege for granted.

Please don't underestimate the power of being an organ donor.

I've heard the common reasons for hesitating, but let's all pause, and try to understand the gravity of such a gift: My donor didn't save the life I was living. Instead, he gave me a chance to live a new and improved life. Just like live theater, my first act lasted almost 31 years, then I had an intermission, where my costume change was a new set of lungs and a change of perspective.

Now I'm living the second act of my life. I haven't written the final act yet, so don't wait for the curtain call anytime soon.

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Topics
Lung Transplantation | Parents & Guardians
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Fanny Vlahos underwent a double lung transplant in May 2009. She holds degrees in English language and literature and American and Canadian law.

Fanny has recently dedicated her time and efforts to inspiring others through her blog, through which she encourages people to embrace their authentic selves and promote organ donation. She is committed to affecting change in health care policy.

Born in Canada to Greek immigrant parents, Fanny now lives in the Chicago area with her spouse of nine years and her son, who is truly the love of her life.

Follow Fanny on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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