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In 1986, at the age of 19 Amy Ford was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension.
Ford explained this is a condition with no known cure, and without a transplant is universally fatal.
She stated that she was told by doctors, there was almost no chance she would make it through the next 20 years, she most likely would not see her children graduate high school.
Starting in 1997 Ford began a series of IV infusion treatments that were meant to treat the hypertension, but could not cure it.
As time moved on she progressed to different treatments and therapies that were in the experimental stage.
Finally after almost 30 years, she made the choice of starting a transplant protocol.
Ford said this began a whole new round of screening and testing, an extensive process meant to prepare a patient for receiving a new organ.
She recounted spending over a year getting doctor’s checkups to ensure she was healthy enough to take the transplant surgery, even a mild illness would set her back to square one on the wait list.
In addition to the physical ,there was also the financial and psychological screenings.
Ford recounted how waiting for insurance approval was a big part of the process.
She also stated that a transplant is a very emotionally and mentally shocking and exhausting experience, and before it even starts there is a screening to make sure you’re mentally ready to take a transplant.
Ford mentioned how over the course of time, and countless doctor’s visits, her husband John kept a journal of everything that transpired.
Ford was placed on the organ recipient list in 2012.
She explained how once the screenings were established, the next phase was finding a hospital that could do the transplant.
Initially the Fords looked at Iowa City, but were referred to specialists in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the time.
After much discussion and waiting, Ford found out that Iowa City did have a specialist that would do the surgery, and Ford was put on a notice list, meaning be prepared if an organ becomes available, you need to be there in a certain amount of time.
She stated how this could also be a very taxing time, quite often when you’re on an organ transplant list, there can be a notice that an organ is available, but it’s damaged or unusable in some way, and the process begins again. Fortunately, Ford did not have that experience, a false start as she put it.
Ford remembered how that time came in 2013, both she and John were at the state wrestling tournaments in Des Moines when a call came in at 8:00 in the morning.
The call let her know that donor lungs were available and she needed to be in Iowa City in 3 hours or less.
Ford arrived in Iowa City and was met by many friends and family that made the trip to be with her during the transplant.
She also remembers the moment she was brought in to the operating room and was ready for the surgery.
Ford stated that seeing the large surgical team, which consisted of 15 people, and the environment gave her a sudden urge to say no I changed my mind.
She stated this was just a sudden reaction to the whole situation, unfortunately her surgeon said “let’s rethink this” and Ford continued with the surgery.
The surgery lasted 14 and a half hours, requires 32 units of blood and Ford was kept in a medically induced coma, for 3 days afterwards.
This was necessary to monitor her health and ensure that the double lung transplant was complete.
Ford spent 10 days in intensive care as well as 21 days in recovery.
All together She spent 48 days in Iowa City
Ford remembers coming out of the anesthetic for the first time.
Physically she said she felt like she was run over by a train, and at first wasn’t certain what was happening.
Ford stated that it was when someone actually told her she had two new lungs that it really sank in.
She stated that it was a very life-changing experience, going from a woman who was told she wouldn’t see her children graduate to actually having grandchildren.
Ford says it’s very important to support and be part of organ donation, for those interested you need to make your wishes known to your family to ensure this happens.
For further information contact the Iowa organ donor Network at iowaorgandonor.org, or register when you renew your drivers license