Interview with Mary Peters 

Interviewed by Claire Baker on November 17, 2002

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: 

Mary Peters is a 41-year-old design engineer originally from Pennsylvania. She is one of six children in her family and she had a pretty traditional childhood. She suffered for many years from a disease called Cystic Fibrosis. In the 1980ís her Cystic Fibrosis worsened, and in the fall of 1991 her pulmonologist suggested a lung transplant. In the fall of 1992 she began the transplant evaluation process.  After ten hospitalizations while waiting, and several near death experiences, she received a double lung transplant on October 23rd, 1994 at the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, Mary Peters resides in Ferndale, Maryland.

Excerpts from Transcript

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

Excerpt 1

 

Background: 

In this excerpt Ms. Peters is discussing her motherís way of educating people about Cystic Fibrosis and her and her sister Barbaraís determination not to become a part of the Cystic Fibrosis statistics.

 

Excerpt:

When my sister and I were little, my mother really believed that educating the public was important and money would be donated and research would find a cure.  So to help us live longer, she went out and showed the film to civic groups and she made us take pamphlets to our teachers, which was kind of an embarrassing thing to do. The pamphlets gave basic details and one of the details it gave was that most CF children at that time the average life expectancy when we where born was preschool age sort of four to six. I remember talking with Barb back then and we decided that those statistics did not apply to us.

 

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Excerpt 2

 

Background: 

In this excerpt Ms. Peters is discussing the struggle of Cystic Fibrosis and its purpose as interpreted by her aunt who is a nun.

 

Excerpt:

I have an aunt whoís a nun who believes that everyone is given something to struggle with to make them a better person. She thought Barb and I were given CF as our struggle. I kind of thought thereís a purpose to this. I would not advocate anyone going out and deliberately suffering. I think deliberate suffering is a sign of mental illness.  But throughout the time I was sick - even though from my point of view God didnít snap his figure and say, "Oh, you're cured," which would have been lovely - I felt as though I had the resources that I needed at the time I needed them. When I had a coughing up blood episode, for example, in the hospital - a really bad one that caused the stroke - it didnít happen in the middle of the night.  It happened in the morning whenever there were personnel who could handle it and could get me transferred to Intensive Care. Itís an odd sort of blessing, but I thought of it as a blessing. Having my mom and dad being in a position to move in with me. Having a mother whoís a RN and really is a very loving and giving person was a blessing. I think it helps me to persevere in trying to stay alive. There might be a purpose to my living.

 

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Excerpt 3

 

Background: 

In this excerpt Ms. Peters is describing how people treat her post-transplant.

 

Excerpt:

There is a whole spectrum of how people treat me even today. While I was staying at mom and dadís I had a stream of relatives that came to visit and they had prayed for me and they really wanted the best for me and they were so happy to see that I was alive. And to some degree their affection for me was also their affection for my sister that had died. I was the personification of her suffering, too. I mean some people when they ask even today how I am doing they mean, "How are your lungs?" Other people who know me better know me in a more complete way.  And they're interested in that, but they're also interested in what else is going on in my life.  And then there are people who really donít care too much.

 

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Excerpt 4

 

Background: 

In this excerpt Ms. Peters talks about the trade-off from disease to syndrome and addresses whether or not the transplant experience has been worth it.

 

Excerpt:

I think the trade-off is worth it, because I've had periodsÖ Iíve had several pneumonias, I had one bout with acute rejection.  It hasnít been a completely smooth path, but it's been better, more often a good path than not.  So yeah, it was worth it.

 

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Excerpt 5

 

Background: 

In this excerpt Ms. Peters addresses her family and coping as well as how difficult it is to understand her perspective.

 

Excerpt:

Itís difficult to understand and itís hard to understand.  Itís like take a look into the window of my soul - you know unless you walk a mile in their shoes, itís really difficult. Iím sure I havenít adequately expressed the difficulty my family had at points when they thought I wasnít going to live. They have an entirely different view of it than I do.

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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