“It’s a literal miracle every time I sing,” says Charity Tilleman-Dick. Charity is an opera singer that reaches the top of the charts. That’s miraculous enough for most us. Charity, however, refers to her lungs in that sentiment. Charity was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. She’s had two double lung transplants. Keep reading to learn more, or follow the original story here for more information.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a form of high blood pressure. It primarily affects the arteries inside the lungs. These arteries become narrower, ultimately resulting in blockages which can destroy the arteries. This can also put unusual pressure on the heart which can lead to the weakening and failing of muscles in the heart as well. Symptoms often include shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness or fainting. When the cause of the condition is unknown, the condition is said to be idiopathic.
When Charity was 20, she had achieved recognition as an opera singer worldwide. She was well on her way to fame. Doctors gave her a shocking diagnosis the same year. They told her she had only five years left to live.
At Cleveland Clinic, however, she found hope. Doctors there told her of a procedure that might save her life: a double lung transplant. The operation was successful, but Charity had to learn the basics of walking, eating, and singing all over from square one.
Charity described the whole process as an example of the kind of grace that’s evident all throughout life and the world. She began to sing opera again. She regained lost ground. It seemed impossible anyone would be able to return to the world of Opera after such a procedure, but Charity was climbing the rungs again and enjoying the process.
That’s when her health took a turn for the worse. Her body began to reject the new lungs. The only chance to save her life was yet another double lung transplant. Charity didn’t give up. She said that even though God doesn’t always answer prayers the way we think He should, that “He always finds a way to remind me that He is there.”
Returning to the Cleveland Clinic, Charity underwent surgery once again. Doctors performed a second double lung transplant. She had to learn eating again, walking again, and singing all over again.
Charity now uses her position as an opera star to promote organ donation. Only 20% of donated lungs are healthy enough to be used in transplant, so the need for organs is definitely high.
Some of this has to do with the average age of donors. Others point to Hepatitis C, which affects roughly 1000 of all donated lungs, rendering them ineligible.
More about Charity’s amazing experiences can be found in her new book The Encore: A Memoir in Three Acts.