How My Friends Helped Me Survive a Second Lung Transplant

Facing the challenges of cystic fibrosis is something no one should have to do alone. Fortunately, I have been able to rely on my support system to give me strength when I wasn't sure if I'd be able to continue the fight.

| 4 min read
Selwa Mitchell

I laugh as hard as my lungs will let me as my best friends' voices drown out the busy noises of the hospital -- and, more importantly, the busy noises in my head. Noises that remind me I have a formidable fight ahead. A fight that requires me to pull strength from every corner of my being -- strength fueled by faith and friendship. The unconditional love from my friends breathes for me when I cannot. They believe in my ability to overcome; therefore, I have to believe too.

The nurse walks in and laughs at my best friends' antics to keep a smile on my face. This week, it is pies and Kacy walking into my hospital room wearing a huge panda head while Ashley, Amy, and Brittany follow behind with mischievous grins and two huge bags filled with all my favorite things.

Facials in the hospital courtesy of my girl Kacy.

Ever since we were little, they have always transformed my hospital room into a home, creating a space for healing through laughter. It has always been the perfect distraction from reality, but this time it was especially significant. Because at this moment, reality was too hard to swallow. If I didn't receive a new pair of lungs soon, there would be nothing left of me to continue the fight.

Although I had already received a pair of lungs from a beautiful donor in June 2016, I was now experiencing chronic rejection and needed a second pair ... a second double-lung transplant. It was a risky feat, but also a necessary one if I was to keep living.

So, I waited; but I did not wait alone. This fight takes a village, and I use mine to find my strength to fight. Every day, I could feel myself slipping away, but every day, I was held together by the love of my girls. I knew they could see me declining, and yet they always found the strength to smile. This strength pumped through my veins, magically operating my body to stay alive.

However, things soon took a turn for the worst. As my body finally became too weak to continue, I knew that my life was now in the hands of medicine and prayer. I realized it was a miracle that my body had lasted this long without failing, and my body had been sustained using their spirits to nourish my breath, my movements, and my fight. Now, all we could do was pray for a miracle.

As I laid in the hospital bed going in and out of consciousness, I could hear my friends whisper. At this point, the intensive care unit (ICU) had become very familiar to them. Cramming their long bodies awkwardly into the hospital waiting room chairs, they would eat their dinner from the vending machines. Then, with only a small backpack and toothbrush, two of them would take turns taking up residence in the ICU and holding down the fort while my angel of a husband received some much-needed rest. My village worked together to keep me alive until my donor, my hero, saved my life on Dec. 18, 2017, when a family selflessly chose to give life despite the pain of loss.

Every day, my donor's lungs breathe life and strength back into my body while my friends' presence brings life back into my soul. While taking a deep breath, I look back at this time and understand how powerful, unconditional, and unwavering friendships can create miracles.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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Selwa was diagnosed with CF at age 3, and her fight began right then and there in that cold hospital room. Now, at age 40, Selwa is a fighter who doesn't take hearing “you can't” from others lightly. Wife, mother to her two healthy children, accountant, and registered yoga teacher, Selwa lives the life she wants despite always being told the odds are against her -- something that just fuels her soul anyway. After two lung transplants, Selwa's journey continues as she finds the beauty in breathing deep and living life. Although this journey to find her new breath has tested every ounce of her faith and mental strength, Selwa fought and fought hard despite the difficulties because she knew every breath was worth the fight. Uniquely, in her struggle, Selwa found beauty and love all around her lifting her up and fueling her fight.

Find her story on Instagram or on Facebook to understand her fight.

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