On 11 August while on a long overdue (but very necessary) errand, I met a beautiful woman. For some reason she caught my eye. She saw me in my wheelchair with the oxygen cylinder and approached me and asked the questions I am so used to now. As I explained to her I could see she had a very good idea of what I was talking about. It turned out that her darling husband of many years also had pulmonary fibrosis. She then told me two things: first, that her husband had died 6 months before and second; that she heard from her husband’s pulmonologist that a team had been assembled to perform lung transplants in Cape Town. All I registered was the first thing she told me.
On 13 August I had my Gethsemane moment. I was alone in my room spending time with God and I poured out my heart to Him as I had done so many times before. I spend many hours with God in His word and we have become so close that I can really talk to Him about anything. He then comforts and strengthens me and gives me the courage that I need to carry on. But on this particular day I was at the lowest I had been in a very long time. Winter was really cold and I struggled with the most basic things. My family and I could literally see the decline in my lung capacity as predicted. I audaciously told my Abba Father that this was no way to live. I had such reduced quality of life; what was the point really? This cup of suffering was too much for me to bear; too bitter, too vile but that His will be done.
On 16 August I had my monthly visit with my pulmonologist. Normally I look forward to these outings as I have made quite a few friends on these hospital trips. But it was cold, I was tired, struggled to breathe and was just down. Everyone noticed and mentioned how I wasn’t my bubbly self. When I eventually got to see my Dr I wasn’t prepared for his very first words: “Mrs Hartnick, we received funding from the government. We put a team in place and are going to do lung transplants in Cape Town now. Your lungs have deteriorated to where we can’t really do much for you but keep you comfortable. Mrs Hartnick may I forward your name as a possible candidate for a double lung transplant?” Say what? Then I remembered the second thing the beautiful Veena Patel told me 3 days before. She was truly an angel sent by God to prepare me for this news!
A transplant is the only “cure” for pulmonary fibrosis. I enquired about it in 2015 but was told that they only do them in Johannesburg and because of the altitude; my lungs will not handle the pressure. I was also told that I need double lungs and possibly a heart so it wasn’t an option for me . Also, I imagined it to be very expensive. So when I hear now that the Government made funds available for lung transplants to be performed in Cape Town I was totally blown away. I saw my Dr’s lips move and I heard words but I couldn’t register, I was in total shock. I kept thinking Lord you did this! You are even using the Government in my miracle. Zechariah 9:12 says “Return to the stronghold you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you”. That is hope’s double reward!
I asked for a day before I decided because as much as this is wonderful news there are great risks involved and I needed to consult my maker. My husband and I had a very frank talk with our boys and explained the new developments. They were both overjoyed at the possibility of having me around for longer and saw this too as God’s miracle for us. We prayed, we asked our family and friends to pray with us. In our devotions the next morning, all four of us experienced such peace that we knew this was from God. So from 21 to 25 August I was hospitalised and underwent a number of tests and evaluations to make sure that the rest of my organs are not damaged and that my heart is strong enough to endure the onslaught of a double lung transplant. I got very good results and had a meeting with the transplant team to explain the way forward. I am currently undergoing pulmonary rehabilitation twice a week and exercise at home to get my muscles working again. It is very tough as I struggle to catch my breath and my saturation drops quickly and my heart rate skyrockets and I get exhausted. But God is with me and my physiotherapist is an angel.
18 October is my follow up appointment at the Transplant Clinic at Grootte Schuur Hospital. If the team is satisfied with my progress, I will be listed and as soon as a suitable pair of lungs becomes available I will be transplanted. Within the space of a month the trajectory of my journey has completely changed. Wow! The verse in Jeremiah 32:27 remind me “Behold, I am the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for me?”
We were advised by a friend who has gone the transplant route with a family member that there are many unforeseen expenses involved and it becomes very draining on the family budget. Therefore, some close friends and family are busy raising funds to assist us with the many additional costs we now have. So on 1 October at the Steenberg SDA church we will have a Fund Raising Benefit:
Once again I am amazed at the goodness and generosity of people. My brother-in-law handed me an envelope last week. A colleague of his, who I only met once or twice, heard our story and when she was at a family function she proceeded to share our plight and collected enough to cover the extra expenses of oxygen and petrol to get me to rehab for that week. When they left we fell on our knees to give thanks to God because this had His signature all over it. The many prayers breathed on our behalf sustain us. The Jenna Lowe Trust made a sizable donation and they continue to support us in any way that they can. We are so blessed!
We still have quite a journey ahead of us with many speed bumps along the way; but we are confident that “He who began a good work … will be faithful to complete it!”