“There’s nothing like having a bond with someone else who knows exactly what you’re going through,” says Tiffany Senter.
Introduced by their doctor, 18-year-olds Tiffany Senter and Emma Greene began emailing and texting their stories and words of support—even though they live 200 miles apart and had never met. “I always try to connect patients pre-operatively to provide support for one another,” says Carol Conrad, MD, director of the Pediatric Lung and Heart-Lung Transplant Program at Packard Children’s.
Both girls suffer from cystic fibrosis (CF), a congenital disease that renders the body unable to regulate salt transport in and out of cells. Over time, CF leads to destruction of the lungs and prevents the body from absorbing food.
“Imagine trying to breathe through a straw,” says Conrad. “Mucus has clogged up the airways, so that the work required to get even a small breath is painfully high.”
Both girls were diagnosed with the life-threatening disease in early childhood and managed well with medication and treatment, leading relatively normal lives. But as the years went by, they found themselves sitting on the sidelines, literally trying to catch their breath.
Tiffany was listed for a double lung transplant in March of 2011 and received her new lungs in November 2011. Emma’s situation was more severe: in November of 2009, she was listed for a unique double-lung and liver transplant.
“It’s pretty rare to see a patient—especially in pediatrics—requiring both a new liver and a new set of lungs. There is maybe only one of these performed each year nationwide,” says Conrad. Though Packard Children’s has one of the largest pediatric transplant programs in the U.S., Emma’s procedure in October 2011 was first double-organ transplant of its kind at Packard.
Both girls are eternally grateful to their donors for giving them a second chance—a chance that promises an unbreakable and lifelong bond of support and friendship. Finally meeting in person for the first time after Tiffany’s November surgery, Emma brought her friend a homemade pie. “It’s like having a CF twin,” says Emma. “We both have a lot of the same fears and questions, but it’s nice to have a friend who understands.”
- Stanford Children's Health
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