Interview with Judy Ryan 

Interviewed by Melissa Meiskey on Saturday, November 9th, 2002

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: 

Judy Ryan, 61 years old, is from Massachusetts and moved to North Carolina when her second husband was transferred to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.  She relocated to her current home in Gardner, North Carolina about a year ago to be closer to Chapel Hill, where she wants to help other transplant patients.  Judy had a single-lung transplant 3 years and 6 months ago because she had Emphysema from smoking cigarettes most of her life.  Judy was on the waiting list for 22 months, but never had any false alarms.  During her transplant, she was the first person at that time to be taken off the ventilator.  She fought rejection 3 times right after her transplant, but that was it.  Judy has been very lucky and values her life and health very much. 

Excerpts from Transcript

Excerpt 1 | Excerpt 2 | Excerpt 3 | Excerpt 4 | Excerpt 5

Excerpt 1

 

Background: 

Judy Ryan had a unique situation when she was called to get her new lung.  She had arranged for an ambulance to drive her up to Chapel Hill, North Carolina from Jacksonville, North Carolina, but when she called there was no ambulance available.  She was upset, but had good friends that were able to drive her there.  This is what she remembers.

 

Excerpt:

Oh yes, yes, I was, I was.  I remember on the way up there, my friend’s husband Ed; he was driving 80 miles an hour, so wonder we weren’t stopped.  And I tried to contact my family on the cell phone and no one was home.  I tried to contact my friends and no one was home, my two or three close friends in Jacksonville.  I kept talking to the nurse.  Hurry up, hurry up.  You’ve got to hurry up.  They let me live in Jacksonville; it was just at the limit of 3 hours, the time I could get there because you gotta have the lung done as soon as it gets in there.  Other people have to live in the area.

 

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Excerpt 2

 

Background:

Judy values her life very much.  She appreciates the time she has gained with her family and friends.  This response is to the question, “How has your life changed since transplant?"  She emphasizes that breathing is not work anymore.

 

Excerpt:

How has it changed?  More appreciation where I am not working, more appreciation for the small things in life.  When you’re working, you appreciate them, but you don’t have the time to really, really think.  Going through what I went through was 3 years and 4 months that I was gradually getting very, very bad just being able to wake-up every morning and breathe, do housework, cook.  As you can see, I bought a little dog.  [Laughter]  I take care of her.  Life is just so precious and so short.  It truly, truly is.

 

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Excerpt 3

 

Background: 

This is Judy's response to the question, "Would you recommend a transplant to anyone else?"

 

Excerpt:

Yes I would, especially younger people.  They have their whole life to live, not that a transplant is going to live years and years and years, but the transplant gives a younger person time to go to school, go to work, maybe get married and have children.  It gives a mother more time to enjoy her children and it gives an older person, too, time to enjoy their children, their grandchildren.

 

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Excerpt 4

 

Background: 

Judy is making a garden to remember her transplant donor, Karen.

 

Excerpt:

She was a 28-year-old woman.  She had an 18-month old child.  I sent a letter and I received a letter back from her mother a few months after transplant and I have not kept in touch in the first…I have not kept in touch because I was going through so much.  How do you tell somebody that gave so much of themselves that you’re not doing well?  You’re in rejection, but I have a big mound out in my front yard that I am making into a garden.

 

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Excerpt 5

 

Background: 

Judy has a great attitude about her life and the years she has gained from her transplant.  She enjoys living a quality life.

 

Excerpt:

But it is hard sometimes, I live my life and I’m doing this and I’m doing that and you forget you have the transplant.  Then something brings you right up sharp that says, “Hey, you do have a transplant.” Eventually it’s going to reject and you’re going to die, but you’ve got to focus on something else, not to be aware of that, but the only way after transplant that you can function is to realize what a gift you have and to live your life to the fullest.

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For more information, contact Dr. Mary Jo Festle, Associate Professor of History at Elon University.

Email: festle@elon.edu

This page last updated 11/24/02