RAHWAY – After a lifetime of breathing difficulties, Janice McNamara of Rahway can now finish a sentence without coughing. “It’s the first thing my friends mentioned after the transplant,” said McNamara, who received a lung transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center just four months ago.
For the first time in years, McNamara, a former flight attendant, can do the things she has been longing for — to travel beyond her front door to attend her daughter’s high school activities and get on a plane with her husband to see her friend get married in Hawaii.
Diagnosed with asthma and bronchitis as a teenager, McNamara never let her lung disease hold her back. “In my 20s and 30s I just pushed through it, but by the time I was 50, things were getting bad – I felt like I was 80,” she remembered.
In hopes of undergoing a new asthma treatment, McNamara visited the Barnabas Health Lung Center in 2010. After a thorough evaluation, the pulmonary specialists told her that she was not eligible for the asthma treatment because she did not have asthma. Instead, they diagnosed her lung disease as bronchiectasis and explained that the damage to her lungs was severe enough to make her eligible for lung transplantation.
McNamara lived with supplemental oxygen for the next two years while she waited for her transplant. After the first year, compatible lungs became available but, she was healing from a broken bone in her foot and was not able to walk. Since standing and walking are primary steps in the recovery from lung transplant, she would have to continue her wait.
“I remember when the call came. It was 11:30 at night and I thought, this can’t be good news.” To her surprise, it was the call she had been eagerly awaiting. McNamara and her husband hurried to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
“When you get to the point that you just can’t breathe, you stop being scared and just want to move forward,” she said. “I wanted to live.”
McNamara’s zest for life and her commitment to remain as strong and healthy as she could prior to the transplant helped her overcome the challenges of recovery.
“The hospital staff was phenomenal. They encouraged me everyday to take a deep breath, but I just couldn’t. My chest felt so tight,” she said.
Then, after several weeks with assistance from a ventilator, McNamara began filling her new lungs herself.
Today, she continues her therapy and is making great progress. McNamara was delighted to watch her daughter’s marching band in the local Memorial Day Parade. She and her husband also returned to the hospital recently to thank the Lung Center staff that was so supportive in her recovery.
For information about the Barnabas Health Lung Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, visit barnabashealth.org/lungcenter.
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