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Kathy Green has her second wind at 72 thanks to a double lung transplant – and some divine intervention.
The longtime Falmouth resident always made a point of starting her days with a long power walk early in the morning. She loved being active, counting aqua fit and hiking among her favourite pastimes. She made a point of staying active socially too, but she steered clear of drinking and smoking.
A 2012 battle with pneumonia, however, would reveal something that doctors, to this day, have no explanation for. Green had somehow developed pulmonary fibrosis, a terminal lung disease with no known cure. It showed up in an X-ray. At first, she mostly had a cough – nothing major. She kept doing what she loves with the help of some medication.
“From 2012 until 2017, I was very healthy, and it hardly bothered me at all,” she said. “In 2017, I started to tank. When it really gets a hold of you, you go south quite quickly.”
Walking became a chore. Hiking was no longer an option. She couldn’t do hills, couldn’t power walk.
In the fall of 2018, she went on home oxygen.
“Your life on oxygen is a whole lot worse than anything you will go through in your journey for a lung transplant, and I truly believe that,” Green said.
She grew exhausted, unable to care for herself or tend to the household chores she once did without a second thought. Even putting her socks on became a two-person job.
“Your body is fighting tooth and nail to just live… it’s fighting for oxygen,” she said.
Dr. Meredith Chiasson, a Halifax-based respirologist, told a then 71-year-old Green that she would be a good candidate for a lung transplant.
“I was at a place where you just get so tired,” Green said.
For a long time, she strongly considered forgoing the transplant and accepting the alternative.
“I was very comfortable in the other route, being a believer in God,” she said. “I was very comfortable knowing where I was going to be going.”
Friends and family asked the mother of two to reconsider, but she always told them she had to make the best decision for her.
She had concerns about undergoing such an invasive procedure at her age, and she wondered what quality of life she’d have after the transplant. She also knew that coming up with the cash – about $10,000 on short notice – could result in financial hardships.
A nurse at Hants Community Hospital in Windsor, where Green worked for 30-some years as a receptionist, said something that made her reconsider. Green had been going back and forth in her mind about going to the hospital that January morning. She thought about cancelling, thinking she wouldn’t be going through with the transplant anyway, but ultimately decided to go for the minor test Chiasson recommended.
Health-care nurse Stephanie Hindes greeted her with a warm embrace at the hospital. The former colleagues hadn’t seen each other in years. Green confided that she didn’t feel she was going to have the transplant. The response from Hindes is now etched on a page in Green’s journal.
“Kathy,” Green read, reciting the journal entry. “Have you ever just considered that God may not be finished with you yet?”
“She said that He may want you to go this route for Him so that He can be a light through you to shine to others.”
Recalling the life-changing interaction with Hindes brings Green to tears to this day.
“She said that she always saw me as a kind of a light at the hospital because I was so positive and encouraging to others,” she recalled. “And she said that maybe God wasn’t ready for that light to go out yet.”
Green said she felt as though God was addressing her through Hindes.
“I was seriously considering palliative care – and then she says this to me. I felt so humble that she said it, that she saw me that way.”
She went home to do her daily devotions and read a Scripture that said: “if you live in close contact with me, the light of my presence filters through you to bless others.”
A cross-reference she read next spoke of moving forward with strength and courage.
“It was very powerful,” Green said.
Green’s husband of nearly 53 years, local realtor Frank Green, has been at her side throughout it all. He travelled to Toronto with her to continue working as her caregiver before and after the transplant.
“He was fantastic,” she said. “There were so many things he had to do, and never once complained. He’d tease me and make me feel better.”
They’d tour the city when possible, marvelling at the variety of sights and sounds they could take in for free.
“There’s so much in Toronto to help you get through your journey,” Green said.
Family, friends and even strangers helped make it happen.
Brian and Shirley Bishop, good friends of theirs living in nearby Hantsport, hosted a fundraiser through their church to help with some of the costs associated with staying in Toronto for months at a time.
“That was so encouraging. That took so much pressure and stress off of us,” said Green. “It kept us from having to make major financial decisions.”
She met new friends at the Toronto General Hospital while awaiting her transplant. Fellow West Hants resident Kim Gillingham was there for the same reason.
Gillingham recently shared her transplant story with SaltWire Network, and thanked Green for her support in Toronto.
“She was like my calm in the storm sometimes,” the Ellershouse resident said.
Green found strength in the company of her new friends in Toronto, too.
“You meet so many people that are going through the same thing that you’re going through, and you develop a community of friends,” she said.
Her transplant took place on Sept. 10, 2019. She has no regrets about going forward with the operation.
“Now that I’ve had my transplant my body, honestly, feels like it has had a whole new birth,” she said.
“These new lungs, I embrace every morning. I’m so appreciative.”
She’s recovering well with the help of top-notch medical teams following her progress, and lots of love from family and friends.
“I’m always finding something to do. I don’t know what the word bored means,” she said.
Green can often be found walking with her beloved husband or, more recently, scrapbooking with friends on FaceTime while public health advisories relating to COVID-19 remain in effect.
She hopes transplant candidates on the fence about the procedure find hope in her story.
“I would recommend this route to anybody that is considering it, anybody that is need of it,” she said. “My lungs have given my body a whole new chance to live.”