Even with the coronavirus pandemic underway, the organ transplant team at Northwestern Medicine is still performing life-saving surgeries, including a double lung transplant this month.
Barbara Creed, 66, received two new lungs on May 2. The mother and grandmother had been suffering from scleroderma, which led to secondary pulmonary hypertension. The hardening of her lungs was also taxing her heart.
"It has to work way too hard to get oxygen. So I knew this was something that needed to happen,” Creed said.
Creed went into the hospital for a procedure on April 29. While there, she got the call that donor lungs were available. The transplant occurred on May 2 , performed by Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of Thoracic Surgery at Northwestern Medicine.
“We continue to offer treatment that would save someone's life,” Bharat said.
The pandemic prevented Creed's husband of 45 years, Bob, from being by her side during her recovery.
“We figured it out. That was the longest time we've ever been apart in our whole marriage,” Barbara Creed said.
On May 14, the pair were reunited again when Bob arrived at Northwestern, wearing a mask, to take her back to their Oak Park home with two healthy lungs.
“They’re amazing! My family has said these lungs must belong to a runner, or an athlete, because they adapted to me so quickly,” Creed said.
Barbara’s recovery will be a long one, including four months on a feeding tube, daily medications and protecting her new lungs from the coronavirus by staying home.
“It is life-changing and I’m so glad I did it. I have no regrets whatsoever,” Creed said.
A music teacher at Ascension Catholic School for 24 years before retiring in 2016, Creed was also a member of the parish choir until her illness prevented her from singing. She is hoping her two lungs will allow her to sing again.
“Whenever we can have church choirs again, I plan to be there,” Creed said.
Bharat believes singing is in Creed’s future.
“We are anxiously waiting for her to get there. I'm 100% confident that she will get there,” Bharat said.
Creed said she’s beyond grateful to the organ donor, the donor’s family and the team at Northwestern Medicine who supported her until her husband could be by her side again.