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In her youth, Theo’s Place resident, Julie Thiry, didn’t think much about her diagnosis with cystic fibrosis (CF). Her parents never told her doctors predicted a life-expectancy of 2 years of age, so she viewed the manual bronchial drainage treatments her medically-trained mother administered as “part of life.” She found a career she loved, had a beautiful daughter, and married her best friend. It wasn’t until Julie reached age 40 that CF started filling her lungs with sticky mucus and taking her breath away. While Julie required numerous hospitalizations over the course of the next decade, she was shocked when doctors sat her down, started talking “end of life,” and asked if she was interested in pursuing a double lung transplant.

As Julie confronted death she wondered, “Am I really this sick? Don’t others deserve lungs more than me? Am I strong enough to do this?” While her husband and daughter wanted more time with the woman they loved deeply, Julie’s faith-filled parents had taught her not to fear death. Unsure of what to do with an impossibly difficult decision, Julie passed the reigns over to God: “If He thinks I can do this, then I’ll make it through the evaluation process.” She passed. “If He wants me to pursue this, I’ll qualify for listing.” She did. “If this is His will, I’ll get ‘the call’ once listed.” It took only 6 days.

On January 24th, at 50 years of age, Julie received a new set of lungs. She was celebrated as the 1000th recipient of a lung transplant at the University of MN with cardiothoracic surgeon Stephen Huddleston, MD leading the procedure. Recovery was brutal with pain, weakness, and memory loss rendering her disabled for the next four months. But even on the worst days, her family and friends were there to carry her. Kind strangers, like the cashier at Cub Foods who came around to give her a hug, were always there to encourage her. In time, Julie’s donor lungs introduced her to a whole new world; one filled with effortless breathing, amazing energy levels, and a belly laugh that no longer led to coughing fits.

Amidst joy, Julie is ever-aware her blessing came with a price. She shared, “I am always thinking of the donor and their family and what they are missing. Life is not fair. Why did I get that gift and they had to suffer? I now want life to be simpler and more purposeful, and [I want to] give to others. This changes your perspective. It’s good.”

"Life is all about choices. Even in the worst circumstances you can choose joy. People are drawn to joy, and the closer people get, the more encouragement you receive."