Double lung transplant patient shows strength and pride at annual walk

Two years ago, Diane Clark wasn’t sure she’d survive let alone be able to walk a dog. She had suffered for years with scleroderma and high blood pressure in the lungs - or pulmonary hypertension when her doctor said the word she never expected to hear.

“She mentioned to me transplant and I can remember when she said it I’m like.. ‘Transplant? Is she crazy?’” she says. “I couldn’t even finish a sentence without grasping for breath .. and I was a little stubborn.”

Diane was placed in the middle of the transplant list and expected it would be at least a year before she had to face it.

But then Diane got sick.

“I got a bad cold.  It ended up being double pneumonia and I was admitted to ICU.”

Two months after first hearing the word and Diane was undergoing a double lung transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital  and facing serious complications after the right one began to hemorrhage.  She only had a 50/50 chance for survival.

She spent nearly three months in the ICU and dropped to a shocking 94 pounds.

“I was so weak I went to clip my nails and I couldn’t push down on the thing.  I couldn’t clip my own nails,” she says.

She couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk and had to learn how to do just about everything all over again in rehab.

And she did and continues to get stronger everyday.

Now she is preparing for a massive accomplishment - walking three miles with her new lungs in the American Lung Associations annual Lung Force Walk on Sunday.

Kristen Young is the executive director of the association in Chicago. She says 1.3 million people in Illinois suffer from lung disease.  Just getting Diane to that starting line on Sunday is a victory.

“It’s hard for them to walk down their stairs, to walk down their hallways, to go to the kitchen, to see them with their oxygen tanks some of them,” she says.  “This is their marathon.  We’re so excited to see them cross the finish line.”

Diane’s days are still full of doctors appointments and challenges but with her new lungs, they are also full of life and gratitude.

“What doesn’t kill you does make you stronger,” she says.  “I’m just so grateful to everyone and I’m so happy to be alive.  And friends and family? I can’t even tell you what everyone did to get me to this point.”

Lung Force Walk

Sunday Sept. 24th

9 a.m.

Mcdonald’s Hamburger University in Oakbrook

Lungforce.org/walk