Northwestern student from Homewood breathing easy after double-lung transplant
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org September 20, 2013 8:24PM
Josie Nordman, of Homewood, plans to return to the Northwestern University campus after receiving a double lung transplant July 28. | Susan DeMar Lafferty~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 23, 2013 6:41AM
Now that she’s back on campus, Northwestern University junior Josie Nordman is looking forward to going to her first college football game — the Oct. 5 Homecoming contest against Big Ten rival Ohio State.
It is one of many activities on her to-do list, now that she is able to have a to-do list.
The young Homewood woman, who was given a new pair of lungs July 28 at University of Chicago Medical Center, is making all kinds of plans now that she can breathe again. She already has checked several items off her list:
Visited her horse: 12 days after surgery.
Swam at the beach: six weeks after surgery.
Drove a car: seven weeks after surgery.
Returned to her Evanston apartment: eight weeks after surgery (Sept. 22).
“I have so much to experience. It’s exciting. I could not think of that before because I did not know if I would have the chance,” she said, just days before moving back to Evanston.
“I can’t ever remember breathing this well. I have so much energy now, I am bored sitting at home. I’m a lot more independent than I have been in a really long time,” said Nordman, 20, diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was four months old.
Her list also includes penning a “thank you” letter to the family of the anonymous donor through the Gift of Life.
“I am grateful beyond words for this gift,” she said. “I want to let them know how this (lung transplant) did not just change my life, it saved my life.”
In February, while still trying to keep up with schoolwork, her doctors recommended she drop out of school and rest.
“I would have crying conversations with my parents weekly. There were plenty of days I was ready to quit. I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. I was in so much pain. I didn’t know what it was like not to be in pain,” she said.
She also wanted to do as much as she could, while she could. She remained at her apartment until June 15 — the day after her 20th birthday, and was hospitalized a few weeks later. The antibiotics were no longer working and she was so sick she was coughing up blood. She came to terms with the “definite possibility” the transplant may not arrive in time.
“In my 20 years I have known more love. I came to realize that whatever happens is OK,” Nordman said. “It’s not within my control.”
She was still in the hospital when a donor finally was found, and the transplant operation began at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. By Wednesday, she was walking without the aid of oxygen.
She’s convinced her recovery was quicker because she had so many people rooting for her and keeping her active and positive before surgery.
“I felt that. I came out of that transplant ready to go,” she said.
She was hospitalized once since then, when her body rejected an anti-fungal medication she was taking. The regimen of anti-rejection medications is nothing compared to the meds she was taking just to survive, she said.
There still are a few restrictions. Josie has to avoid crowded, closed-in spaces, like classrooms and restaurants for awhile, and can’t resume classes until January. She has to wait another month to ride her horse, can’t eat raw meat or sushi, and has to be extremely careful about fresh fruits and vegetables. And she can’t lift more than 10 pounds, although the backpack she was carrying may have pushed that limit.
“It’s definitely been an interesting journey. As hard as it has been, it has been worth it. I learned a lot about how good and loving people are.”
“I hope people can see what (organ donations) can do — not only to change someone’s life but to give someone a second chance,” said Josie, whose life is now beginning.