A very special Christmas

December 22, 2014


Double lung transplant recipient and her family say thanks

Karen Hamilton is spending the holiday season at home with her husband and their two-year-old twin daughters.

The Taber woman, who was born with cystic fibrosis, considers this cherished time with family nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

Earlier this year, Karen, 30, underwent a double lung transplant at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, a procedure that will improve and extend her life.

“My life has done a 180 since the transplant,” says Karen. “I can begin looking forward to a future with my family … We will be forever grateful.”

To show their gratitude, Karen, her husband, Brent, and their girls, Emma and Lily, visited the transplant team last month to deliver handwritten Christmas cards for each member, as well as candy canes. Many hugs and tears were also shared during the emotional reunion.

“I just want to thank them and be able to show them what they gave me – this gift. Because they cared, I am able to be with my girls and my husband and my family longer,” says Hamilton.

Adds Brent: “Anything you needed, you could talk (to the team). You could ask any question. The care that we have here in Alberta is just amazing.”

Cystic fibrosis is a multi-system disorder that produces a variety of symptoms, including persistent cough with thick mucous, wheezing and shortness of breath, and frequent chest infections. The persistence and ongoing infection in the lungs causes loss of lung function, which proves fatal in most people with the disease.

“Before the transplant, I would have to take medication and cough for an hour and a half to clear my lungs each morning,” says Karen. “I needed to rely on the generosity of others to help care for my children every day.”

Three months after being placed on a transplant list, a match became available. Surgeons used the hospital’s portable Ex-Vivo lung perfusion device to repair damaged donated lungs and make them suitable for transplant.

After a month of rehabilitation, Karen was back at home with her family.

“I turned 30 and that’s something, when I was younger, I never thought that I would even experience,” Karen says.

“Just to get to this part of life is quite fantastic.”

Members of the transplant team are happy their passion for health means there will be a family Christmas celebration in the Hamilton household.

“She had a lot to live for and that makes it a big, important thing for us to ensure we can make that happen for her,” says registered nurse Gilda Frizzell.

“We were so happy to actually meet her family because we had not met her little kids,” adds transplant co-ordinator Cheryl Salvador.

“So for them to be all together was really nice.”