Jeanie Leach, Recipient
Lifesaving Lung Transplant Fulfills Mom’s Dream
Posted January 12, 2018
Jeanie Leach is excited to raise her beautiful twin four-year-old daughters. She’s looking forward to making tutus and hairbows, teaching them how to catch a fish, taking them hiking and camping. Most of all, she’s looking forward to spending time with them.
For 14 years, Jeanie and her husband Mike wanted children. They dreamed of their family growing, of first words, of first steps, of first days of school.
Meanwhile, Jeanie was receiving treatments for cystic fibrosis. While she grew up knowing she would eventually need a lung transplant, she was always healthy. In fact, she routinely ran six miles as a track athlete in high school. As Jeanie and Mike planned for a family, doctors regularly checked her lung function to make sure her body could withstand pregnancy.
Jeanie and Mike eventually sought fertility treatments. They completed the battery of testing and were approved, but Jeanie’s lung function dropped below a safe level before treatments could begin. They opted for the long process of finding a surrogate.
Their twin girls were born in November of 2013. “Three months later, I guess I was paying more attention to the babies,” Jeanie said. “I was sick. I thought I had food poisoning. That’s when I went on oxygen full time. That slowed me down a little, but I had twins to take care of. Mike works nights. He helped a lot during the day, but he had to sleep too.”
Jeanie was eventually evaluated for transplant in October 2015. “I did all the testing and they said I qualified,” she said. “Mentally, I didn’t think I was ready. I thought I was still OK. I had maybe one or two admissions to the hospital each year.” She decided not to sign the papers to be listed for transplant.
In May 2017, that changed. Her lung function continued to drop and her carbon dioxide levels increased to unsafe levels. She was compelled to complete the process to be listed for a lifesaving lung transplant.
Twenty-eight days later, she received the call for a lifesaving lung transplant.
“I just wanted to get the most out of my lungs,” Jeanie said. “Evidently, when they took them out, they said the left one wasn’t working. I was down to 18-20% lung function.”
Today she’s enjoying time with her daughters: running, playing, fishing. The girls noticed a difference right away. “A few weeks after transplant, one of them said, ‘Mommy, you have to do a breathing treatment.’ No, not anymore,” Jeanie said. And Jeanie even completed her first 5K race since her transplant on Thanksgiving Day.
A few months after her transplant, Jeanie received a letter from her donor family. She was surprised to learn she and her donor share a wedding anniversary, September 4, separated by only 10 years. Jeanie wrote back almost immediately. “I had been thinking about what to write and how to write it,” she said. “I want to meet them. I want them to meet Mike and the girls. I want to say thank you and show them how it has changed my life with my girls.”