LISBON — A young woman whose life was turned upside down by illness is doing well after a double-lung transplant in Cleveland on Friday.
The doctors had told Renee Brodeur that she needed the transplant if she hoped to lead anything approaching a normal life.
Renee, 25, was diagnosed in 2008 with Still's disease, a rare form of arthritis marked by fevers, pain and rashes, and in 2010 with pulmonary hypertension. The two conditions left her virtually bedridden. Placed on the national waiting list for lung transplants, there was little Renee could do but pass the time until the call came to alert her that a pair was available.
The call came at 3:30 a.m. Friday, said her mother, Madeleine Brodeur. The pair rushed to pack and reach the Auburn airport by 7 that morning, when a jet from the Cleveland Clinic was scheduled to pick them up.
“You think you're ready for this, but you're never ready,” Madeleine said. “It was really exciting and scary, altogether.”
Within minutes of arriving at the hospital later that morning, Renee was in the operating room, Madeleine said.
Doctors said the nearly five-hour surgery went well and Renee's recovery has been without incident.
“The first 24 hours are crucial, of course, but there was no bleeding or rejection. There was none of that,” Madeleine said.
Renee sat up in a chair for several hours Sunday. Doctors removed her breathing tubes that day, her mother said. “That was very painful to watch. She has to learn how to breathe. It's like you're underwater and you want to breathe, but you can't,” she said, adding that a respiratory therapist worked with Renee during the day to help her breathe on her own.
She will move out of the intensive-care unit as soon as a bed is available in a “step-up” ward where she will recover for a few more days while doing physical therapy, her mother said. "They're going to get her to walk,” she said.
Soon, Renee will leave the hospital, but the family will remain in Cleveland for six weeks so doctors can be sure her new lungs are working properly. Some of the several thousand dollars from recent fundraisers organized by Renee's mother and friends, including a May 5K race and an early June dinner, will help the family pay for their stay in Cleveland, Madeleine said.
She expects her daughter's life will return to normal once she has recovered from the extensive surgery. “She will be like anybody else — work, run, do anything anybody else does,” she said.