Double-lung transplant is birthday gift 3 years in the making

FOX 35 News at 10

- After waiting nearly three years, a now 20-year-old girl from DeLand gets a double-lung transplant and a new outlook, the day before her birthday. 

When we arrive in Jacksonville, Shelby Harrison has to give herself a blood glucose test.  She and her father Rick Harrison will begin each meal with those tests for the next couple of months. Dad shows us the book where they will keep a record of everything.

Shelby is on so many different medications after her double-lung transplant November 29, she'll have to perform a very delicate balancing act for the next three months to make sure her body doesn't reject it.  That includes she and Dad living near the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, nearly two hours from their DeLand home and the rest of the family. 

She explains the moment she learned she would finally receive the lungs after waiting for years.  She was with her boyfriend's family.  She says, "My Dad called while we were over there and he was like, 'Are you ready to pack and go?'  I was like, 'What?'  He was like they just called, we have four hours to get up there so we'll go home and pack and head out!"

That was November 28, two days before her birthday. Shelby explains, "They said the girl was my age and my size, they didn't even have to shave the lungs at all for them to be able to fit me.  It literally was a perfect fit."

Perfect fit and perfect timing.  We first introduced you to Shelby just before Christmas two years ago. Her lung capacity soon plummeted to less than 20 percent. A moment during that interview, Shelby began to cough hard, trying to catch her breath.  One week and one day after arriving in Jacksonville and undergoing double-lung transplant surgery, remarkably, Shelby left the hospital Tuesday with a future and new-found wisdom.

She says, "I would have waited another year or two, and that would have been it.  I wouldn't have been able to think about getting married or a big medical career.  None of that would have happened without somebody giving me their lungs. None of it would have happened."

But it did, and now?  Shelby says, "I know a lot of people that want to go and do something so big.  I just want to live comfortably, be happy!"  


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