Transplant pioneer celebrates 19 years of health

07.25.2011

 


A Saskatoon woman has reason to celebrate. It was 19 years ago that Sherry Duncan Paterson underwent a double-lung heart transplant, making her a pioneer in the Canadian transplant world.
A Saskatoon woman has reason to celebrate. It was 19 years ago that Sherry Duncan Paterson underwent a double-lung heart transplant, making her a pioneer in the Canadian transplant world.

A Saskatoon woman has reason to celebrate. It was 19 years ago that Sherry Duncan Paterson underwent a double-lung heart transplant, making her a pioneer in the Canadian transplant world.

Source: CTV Saskatoon

A Saskatoon woman has reason to celebrate. It was 19 years ago that Sherry Duncan Paterson underwent a double-lung heart transplant, making her a pioneer in the Canadian transplant world.

19 years ago, after the birth of her second daughter, Paterson was diagnosed with a rare disease called primary pulmonary hypertension. It's a serious condition of the lungs that forces the heart to work harder and can lead to heart failure and even death.

"All of my symptoms of the disease had been masked by my pregnancy," says Paterson. "So it really hit me out of nowhere, so the news was really devastating to my whole family."

At the time, doctors told Paterson her only hope was to undergo a double lung heart transplant. She was placed at the top of the wait list, and three months later received word a donor match had become available. Paterson was flown to London, Ontario, where she was given a new heart and set of lungs and was told to expect another five years out of life.

"We just tried to cram so many memories and happy times into the five years," says Paterson. "I was thinking I wore myself out."

But luckily for her family, five years became 10 and then 15. Now, 19 years later, Paterson is considered a pioneer in the transplant world. She's one of only a few to have done so well for so long after undergoing a multiple organ transplant.

Dr. Dale Lien sees Paterson once a year for a checkup at his Edmonton clinic. "People would never have guessed or dreamed that 19 years later she would still be doing as well as she is and leading a normal life."

Lien says because she underwent her transplant at a time when the procedure was relatively new, no one really knew what to expect. Today, doctors are still learning from her success.

"She still has a normal heart and normal lungs and it'd be great if another 19 years go by and we're still celebrating her success," says Dr. Lien.

Celebrating is exactly what Paterson plans to do with each passing year. Still, not a day goes by that she doesn't think of the family who gave so generously in their time of grief so that she could have another chance at being a wife and mother.

"I still think of them, of the gift they gave me and how wonderful everything turned out in my life."

 

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