Sudbury native Tina Proulx was on life-support when an anonymous lung donation gave her a second chance at living.
Proulx was only 31 when she found out in October 2014 she would need a double-lung transplant to save her life.
She was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension about 10 years ago, and her condition had complicated to the point of lung failure.
An arterial malformation in her left leg formed small blood clots that eventually worked their way up to her lungs.
After years with the disease – before surgeons implanted a plastic screen to prevent the clots from travelling up her arteries – her lungs were irreparably damaged.
She had constant shortness of breath, sometimes coughed up blood and experienced heart palpitations.
In late November, Proulx had reached a low point, and after an intensive open-heart surgery, was attached to an artificial lung that kept her alive.
“It was a pretty rough period,” Proulx said.
While her recollection of that period remains hazy, Proulx said she can still remember the day about a week after she was put on life-support, when doctors said they had found a compatible pair of lungs, and could perform a transplant on Dec. 2.
“I was very excited,” Proulx said.
But the surgery would come with its own set of risks.
While Toronto's General Hospital is a world-leader for lung transplants, about five per cent of patients die on the operating table.
For Proulx, that risk was closer to 10 per cent because of the blood thinners she took to treat her condition.
The grueling 11-hour surgery was a success, though, and Proulx was able to leave the hospital on Christmas day.
“It was the best Christmas gift ever,” said her mother, Lorraine Giroux.
Proulx continues to recover in Toronto, and by March 2 should know if she'll be healthy enough to return home to Ottawa, where she and her husband, Joel, now live.
Even now, Proulx said the improvement to her quality of life has been astounding. It used to be that she couldn't walk more than 10 feet before she had to sit down. Now she walks to and from her appointments at the Toronto General Hospital.
“It's such an amazing feeling to be able to breathe,” she said.
But even in a best-case scenario, her new set of lungs may just buy her an extra five or six years of life.
Her mother said she intends to live life to the fullest in that time.
“I'm so grateful to my donor,” Proulx said.