Interview with Tiffany Vuncannon

Interviewed by Kelly Poisson on October 31, 2002

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: 

 

Tiffany Vuncannon is a twenty-eight year old woman who was born with Cystic Fibrosis. She grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina and now resides with her husband in Cary, North Carolina. In 1994, her sophomore year in college, she underwent her first double lung transplant. Following the lung transplant Mrs. Vuncannon lost some of her hearing, which has progressively gotten worse. She returned back to school and moved into her own apartment following the transplant, however her body rejected the first set of lungs in the fall of ’96. Following a four-month waiting period she received a second double lung transplant.  When asked to reflect on her experience and if she would make the same decision now she stated, “Absolutely, absolutely, both of them. If they would do it again and I needed it I would do it a third time. ” Mrs. Vuncannon has now returned to school to complete her undergraduate degree in sociology and is anticipating graduating in the near future.

 

Excerpts from Transcript

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

Excerpt 1

 

Background: 

KP: You said your parents tried to have you lead as normal of a childhood as you could. Do you feel like you led a normal childhood?

 

Excerpt:

TV: I do. Well, I feel like there were things that affected me and were built into my character without me realizing it. But I see those as all positive, all positive things.  But the rough side of that, that I am just sort of realizing now is that because I had such a normal childhood I grew up with normal expectations of what my adulthood would be. Now that I’ve hit a wall physically and you know to be an academic overachiever…not to have finished your college degree when your twenty-eight that sets up a differential between my expectations and reality.  That creates another set of things that you have to deal with. I still think we chose... the better way. If they had said, “Okay you’re sick and you’re going to likely die at an early age and you’re going to have a lot of limitations and maybe you know you shouldn’t think about college,” not they would actually have said that but they could have conveyed that then I think I probably wouldn’t have come this far. Because I believe that [if you] set your expectations really high at a ten and then if you’re striving for that high then you could achieve at least a seven. So, if they had set the expectations lower at about a seven I probably wouldn’t have achieved but maybe a four.

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Excerpt 2

 

Background: 

KP: Did you feel a difference between having the chest P.T. and exercising?

 

Excerpt:

TV: I felt exercising was more productive for me. I’m still not a fan of chest P.T. When you’re in the hospital they want to do it like four or five times a day and it gets sore, especially on a woman with the chest area can get to be very sensitive. Sometimes at Duke they will let you forgo one chest percussion and go up to their physical therapy room and exercise and I always preferred that. I feel like exercise does more to increase my lung capacity and my overall strength and also the mental and emotional benefits of it. Chest percussion is a therapy that I really detest so you know each time when it is finished just you know, “Well, that was a really bad experience.” But with exercise I usually feel uplifted and it’s got the endorphins going and it’s very powering for me. Chest P.T., I did a lot on myself but you know you can’t do your back and stuff, and exercise is something that I can do for myself. I don’t have to have a care provider provide it. I can do it myself. It’s very empowering that’s one of the reasons I like it better. 

 

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Excerpt 3

 

Background: 

KP: How did you feel when you were told that you’d have to go back on the list?

 

Excerpt:

TV: (Laughter). If somebody had told me, you know two years before that that I’d gone through this, I’d shot them (laughter). And then told them they were a liar. I never thought I would go through that ever again. The second transplant was harder to recover from, emotionally.  I had experienced health for the first time, I was in school full time, I was in a fraternity, I had become an officer in that fraternity. I had just had my own apartment, I lived by myself I didn’t have roommates. I was very independent and had created this little life for myself and was very happy, very happy. I felt like it came out nowhere, just blindsided me.

 

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Excerpt 4

 

Background: 

KP: How did you meet your husband?

 

Excerpt:

TV: I met him at church. I’ve known him three years now.  We were both hit by the lightning bolt and kind of knew right away. When he called to ask me out on my first date- I don’t know how I brought it up- but I thought you know this…I’ve wanted to be forth right with everybody I’ve dated and let them know what their getting into.  I told him about the CF and about the transplants and I’d think the back of my mind, “Okay well, you know here’s your chance to back out of this.” Instead he just went to the internet and researched CF and started finding people at work whose children had it. I still ask him to this day, we’ve been married a year and a half, “How, why would you marry me, why would you marry somebody with these problems?” Because you know I didn’t choose this but he to a large extent chose this. He didn’t have to get involved with all this. He just said, “Well, I just, I feel in love with you.” I really think he’s very brave to walk into all this not knowing what to expect. I mean he could be a widower at a very early age. He’s just taking it as it comes.

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Excerpt 5

 

Background: 

KP: Would you recommend a lung transplant to anyone else?

 

Excerpt:

TV: Yeah, and I have. My doctor has asked me before to talk to different people and tell them honestly what I think. I always say, “Go for it!”  I guess I don’t understand when people talk about the choice involved. I guess I do understand you can choose to sort of die with dignity and quietly and leave this earth very quietly. That’s a valid choice, it is, but for me it just seemed like I wasn’t ready to leave this earth yet. No part of me was ready, there was no resignation, there was no acceptance, I was not ready. To me it was like, “If the plane was going down, airplane is going down, and you can grab a parachute and jump, well, I’m going to do it, skydiving is not my idea of fun-I wouldn’t do it on a weekend- but if the plane is going down I’m going to grab the chute and jump.” For me lung transplant was my parachute.

 

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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