Every year in the U.S., more than 30,000 people receive the life-saving donation of a vital organ.
In 2017, one of those recipients was Jennifer Strickland Jones of Byron, Minnesota. Until she was 30, Jennifer had been told that her chronic breathing problems were a result of asthma and allergies. After her son was born, though, she got a startling diagnosis; she actually has cystic fibrosis (CF).
CF is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. Jennifer’s CF had gotten so bad that she could barely draw a breath without gasping for air, so she began the vigorous testing and extensive evaluation period to qualify for a lung transplant.
“Last year in October she went in and it was getting so bad they put her on oxygen full time,” said Jennifer’s fiancé, Rob Ronnenberg.
Jennifer’s lung function decreased rapidly, and in June, her name was added to the national transplant list. By mid-October, her lung function was barely 10 percent and she was on oxygen full-time. Thankfully, the power of the organ donation network came through, and a donor was found just in time to save Jennifer’s life.
Rob described the emotional phone call that Jennifer received when she learned a donor had been found:
“The nurse comes in the room and says hey you’re going to get a phone call and then the phone rang and we’re like ‘okay, that’s never happened so what’s going on?’ Well, all of a sudden she goes ‘are you for real, are you serious? Is this really happening?’ And that was it that was the call.”
On December 22, 2017, Jennifer underwent the arduous surgery to receive a double lung transplant.
When she awoke from surgery, her doctors removed the breathing tubes and she took the first unobstructed breath of her entire life.
Her face, when she drew in that first gulp of air, said it all.
“I felt like I was flying. I thought I was just up there and couldn’t take a deep enough breath and it was incredible,” Jennifer recalls.
As her dad clutched her hand, Jennifer rolled her head back and took a series of long, pleasurable breaths. She held her arms out as her new lungs expanded and contracted, savoring the feeling of breathing freely and easily for the first time in her life.
Rob shared the emotional moment on YouTube in hopes that people will see it and make the decision to become organ donors.
“We want everyone to consider donating your organs and make sure it’s checked on your driver’s license and communicated to your loved ones. Please consider registering now at https://registerme.org/. Thank you to the generous donor family and Mayo Clinic for making Jennifer’s miracle possible.”
Breathing is one of those things that we tend to take for granted — until you can’t do it. Jennifer’s beautiful reaction is proof that the ability to take sweet oxygen into your body is a feeling we should all be grateful for each day.
Watch the video below to see this incredible gift of life in action, and don’t forget to share.