Melodie Greene is a 41-year-old double lung and heart
transplant recipient. She was
born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, and now lives outside of
Charlotte in Cornelius, North Carolina. She lives with her husband Craig,
who is a
cardiologist, and two dogs. She
was born with a heart defect called Ventricular Septal Defect and was
transplanted twice—the first time in July of 1999 and the second time in
August of 1999, after she rejected her first set of organs.
Before she became sick, Melodie was a nurse and small business
owner. Now she gives talk
about organ donation to various groups and runs a lung transplant support
group called Lungs 4 Life.
Excerpts from Transcript
When Melodie was first diagnosed with Secondary Pulmonary Hypertension--which was caused by her heart defect--in 1987 there was nothing the doctors could offer her to help relieve the problems.
CW: What steps did they take to help relieve some of the problems from the hypertension at that point?
MG: There was actually nothing available at that time. It was a very, very unknown disease; they were just learning about it. Lung transplantation had been tried, but had been very unsuccessful, so there was very little known about Pulmonary Hypertension and very little known about lung transplant. In fact, he didn’t even bring transplant up as a possibility in ’87.
It wasn't for another ten years, in 1997, until the doctors finally told Melodie transplantation was her best option. But having a transplant is a big decision.
CW: And did you immediately know that you would have the transplant or were you doubtful about whether or not you wanted to go ahead and have a transplant?
MG: I knew that I would ultimately want and need the transplant. At that point I wanted to prolong it as long as possible. I wanted to—and again, I was very ill—but outward appearances I looked very normal and healthy and I could still do a lot of the things I wanted to do. So I guess there was some bit of denial in the fact if I’d gotten a donor that day, I would have said, “No,” and in hindsight I should have taken anything that would have been available right then.
As with any other transplant recipient, Melodie had to wait for her double lung and heart transplant. She was amazingly positive throughout the wait.
CW: When you were on the waiting list, were you nervous that you weren’t going to get transplanted or did you know that you would somehow find a donor?
MG: I always intuitively knew through prayer that I would receive a donor. I was afraid—I mean there were days that I was afraid—but for the most part I knew that I would be taken care of. My faith was an incredible gift and that made a big difference.
Craig and I based all of our hope and faith on Jesus Christ, and a favorite verse of ours was Romans 12:12: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer." And that's a very short, simple verse, but very strong. And it carried us through, and I'm thankful for it.
Melodie's transplant experience was a lot more difficult than most. She had to have two heart-double lung transplants and had many other complications as well. Here she tells about some of the other potentially fatal situations she was able to overcome.
CW: How did they stabilize you between the time when you started rejecting until when you got your second transplant?
MG: High-dose anti-rejection drugs, high doses of antibiotics. I had a disease or a bacteria called Pseudomonas and that was aggressively treated. I was on very, very high settings on the ventilator. About four days after the original rejection my trachea completely dehisced—ripped apart—which is a fatal outcome, it had never been repaired in history that any doctor knows of or has written about, and my surgeon, miraculously, was overcome to do something and he created a surgery down in the operating room.
CW: How long had they given you to get another transplant?
MG: I was dying when the second set of organs came. The day after the surgery to repair the trachea I was bleeding horrendously and they were very close to stopping everything, because I was bleeding so terribly, and the surgeon encouraged my husband just to wait just a little bit longer. And within about four hours the bleeding stopped--completely stopped--and the surgeon re-listed me, full well knowing that the probability was near nothing that I would get another donor that soon. I developed a disorder of the superior venacava that blocks the fluid from draining from your upper body extremities--your head, your arms--and I was dying from that, and the donor became available three days later.
Melodie's church family provided a lot of strength and gave her a lot of hope during her ordeal with transplantation. She believes their faith helped her survive.
CW: Is your church family very supportive, did you get a lot of support from your church family while you were waiting to be transplanted and during the transplant?
MG: It was incredible, and it was people we did not know very well. We joined the church in early ’97 and, I’m sorry mid ’98, we started visiting in early ’97. And didn’t get to know too many people before I became very, very sick and the cards and the letters and an actual 250-something prayer chain that was hand-done was sent to the hospital room and we strapped it across the room. It was unbelievable. And people will tell us to this day that they heard about us, they didn’t know us, they didn’t even know our faces, but they were compelled to pray for us. And that’s overwhelming.
This page last updated 11/24/02