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Richton Park woman awaits double lung transplant

PamelCarpenter who needs double lung transplant sits with some oxygen tanks machines she uses her home RichtPark IL Friday November

Pamela Carpenter, who needs a double lung transplant, sits with some of the oxygen tanks and machines she uses at her home in Richton Park, IL on Friday November 9, 2012. She is trying to raise funds for a double lung transplant. She suffers with pulmonary fibrosis and this is her only chance of surviving. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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How to help

To make a donation in Pamela Carpenter’s honor, visit
www.transplants.org and select “find an NFT patient” to find her page. Contributions also can be mailed to NFT Illinois Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430, Memphis,TN 38119. Donors should include Pamela Carpenter’s name in the subject line.

For more information about Saturday’s fundraiser in Richton Park, contact Marice Cobb at (630) 215-3995 or
maricecobb@yahoo.com, or Donald Carpenter at (708) 833-7232 or shaheen57@att.net.

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Updated: December 16, 2012 6:23AM



Pamela Carpenter looks forward to the day when she can hike, travel and resume her volunteer and church activities. It’s this positive outlook that keeps the Richton Park woman going day after day while she waits for a double lung transplant.

Twenty years ago, Carpenter, 57, was experiencing a constant dry cough, and testing revealed she had pulmonary fibrosis — a disease marked by scarring and hardening of the air sacs in her lungs.

“Any kind of respiratory illness is triple hard on me,” she said. Her system grew significantly weaker after a bout of double pneumonia in 2010, and she now totally depends on oxygen tanks to breathe.

“My life has changed so drastically in the past year. I cannot be without these at all,” Carpenter said, pointing to her tanks. According to the American Lung Association, there is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis. Her doctors said a lung transplant is critical to her survival.

After an extensive series of tests to qualify for a transplant, she was placed on a waiting list in January. She is No. 2 on the transplant list at the University of Chicago Medical Center. While she waits for a donor, Carpenter is working with the non-profit National Foundation for Transplants to raise the money needed not only for her transplant surgery — estimated to cost $800,000 — but for the follow-up care and anti-rejection medication she will need to take the rest of her life.

With the foundation’s help, volunteers are planning Carpenter’s third fundraiser this year — “Pam’s New Breath of Life”— from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Richton Park Community Center, 4445 Sauk Trail, Richton Park. The event will include a silent auction, vendors, music, refreshments and giveaways. Equally important as raising money, Carpenter hopes to raise awareness about organ donations and will register new donors at the event.

“You don’t know how important (organ donation) is until it happens to you,” said her husband, Donald Carpenter. His wife has always been a “giver,” he said, so he is confident a donor will be found who can give her a pair of lungs.

Two key factors in finding the appropriate lung donor are the person’s height (which relates to lung size) and blood type, Pamela Carpenter said.

The foundation for transplants also helps with any costs related to the operation that are not covered by insurance, including mortgage and utility payments for three months after surgery, she said.

Since it was founded in 1983, the foundation’s fundraising campaigns have generated nearly $60 million to help transplant patients, who number more than 2,500 patients annually.

The Carpenters’ income is one-fourth of what it used to be. Pamela is not able to work, and Donald doesn’t work overtime so he is able to care for his wife.

“I’m just grateful I have a job with insurance,” he said.

Despite the 50 feet of tubing she carries around, or the portable oxygen tank that follows her when she steps out of her house, Pamela Carpenter is upbeat and thinking only of the future — and what a healthy pair of lungs will mean.

“If you give in to fear, that’s all you will think about,” she said. “I keep my mind focused on what I can do when this is over.”

She is eager to return to her volunteer work in her community and at her church — Valley Kingdom Ministries International of Oak Forest. Until this year, she cared for her legally blind mother, was a home health care volunteer, and ran a home-based business.

“All that had to stop in February but I’m still here,” she said. “I have been so active all my life, but I just can’t do it anymore. When I get to having a pity party, I just look at others in difficult situations and realize that it could be so, so, so much worse.”

Carpenter, who longs to be active, now finds it a challenge just to get up the 13 stairs to the bedroom of her two-story townhouse.

Donald Carpenter said his wife is able to do “very limited” activities around the house, such as cooking, and has to stay away from crowds — which sometimes keeps her away from church. But she continues to pray every day and is still involved in a weekly prayer group, where she encourages others through prayer.

In their quest to find a donor, the Carpenters are considering placing Pamela on a multiple listing — expanding her search to hospitals across the country. But that would mean relocating for at least a year for the procedure and recovery, and having Donald give up his job, she said.

“By the grace of God, I will be fine,” she said.



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