Bethany's Story: My First Solo Trip Post Bilateral Lung Transplant

woman driving in car

Bethany Sprague was a healthy mom of two working as a physical therapist in St. Louis when she started experiencing a dry cough that wouldn’t go away for months. She was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2010 and would soon begin her lung transplant journey. Here, in honor of Mother's Day, she shares an exciting post-transplant story.

You know you want to go! You've had it on your mind for months! You want to cut your caregiver's leash and make that road trip to family or friends on your own. You have had all kinds of queries such as:

  • Can I drive for several hours alone?  
  • Can I organize my medications?  
  • Can I protect myself from crowds of the city?  
  • Can I save my energy?

My children, Max and Juliet, had not seen me since Thanksgiving. At that time, I was still pretty "rough." I was on oxygen and used a wheelchair for long distances. For Mother's Day weekend, I surprised them with a proposal for me to drive up to Chicago and spend Mom time with both of them. Juliet flew in from NYC and we shared a hotel room. Max lives there.

Once in my car, I felt the shenanigans of freedom. I turned on the air full blast, put in my R.E.M. CD, and put my foot to the metal. I will admit, I belted out some tunes. To break up the ride, I stopped several times to walk at rest stops.

On my arrival in Chicago, both Juliet and Max met up with me. They were surprised at all the progress I had made and it was a great reunion.

I caught up with things I had missed from Chicago. We had authentic Mexican food at one of Max's favorite local places. We also had Dim Sum in Chicago's China Town. We went to Margie's ice cream place. When going out to restaurants, we would try to go during lighter populated times and I would situate myself facing a wall or away from major traffic. I kept up with my medications, blood testing, vital signs, and  PFTs. On Saturday, when I fatigued a bit, Juliet and I opted to see a movie.  After 90 minutes of losing ourselves, I was rested enough to keep up with the remainder of the day. At night, Juliet and I would do the New York Times crossword puzzles with Max on speaker phone until we finally tired out. Sunday, we said our goodbyes and I headed home. I did it!!

There is life after lung transplant and we all make the decisions on what that life is going to be. I appreciate my husband Stan's caregiving. I also appreciate the weeks that my children left their homes and jobs in other cities to be by my bedside. It was very awesome to spend Mother's Day weekend up and running with my children. And…this time, I was the one traveling!

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The Penn Medicine Transplant blog features short postings with news about the transplant program at Penn Medicine, notices about upcoming events and health information. Subscribe to the blog and stay connected with Penn's Transplant Program!

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