Maple Heights woman undergoes rare second lung transplant

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MAPLE HEIGHTS, OH – With purple highlights in her hair and video game remote in hand, Debi Evans of Maple Heights is a rock star in her two grandsons' eyes.

But before they were even born, a chronic disease nearly took her life.

Evans described her symptoms as, "Shortness of breath. Non-exertion. I would get sick two or three times a year with bronchitis."

At the age of 50, Evans was given just six months to live, diagnosed with chronic emphysema after more than three decades of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

"I started smoking when I was 14, like back in the day, that was the thing to do, everybody wanted to try cigarettes," said Evans.

Her condition was dire and as a result, she was put at the top of the list to receive a new left lung at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Sudish Murthy performed the surgery.

"She had separated from tobacco use several months before. Longer than that. And so she had organized her own life and was living a much healthier life, and was really the ravages of the disease that were perpetuating that really got her to the situation she was in," said Murthy.

The transplant was a success, with Evans given a new lease on life.

But years later, her body began to reject the organ.

Murthy said, "As that transplant starts to lose some of its luster, starts to lose some of its ability to exchange for a lung.... As that lung starts to become more dysfunctional, they start to become more dysfunctional because they are completely dependent on that lung being perfect."

After being listed a second time, and almost thirteen years later, Debi received her second lung transplant in June of this year.

This time, it wasn’t Dr. Murthy in the operating room, but a man that he trained, Doctor Usman Ahmad.

Her message to them, "Thank you for saving my life."

Debi’s focus now is on two other men in her life, Austin, 11 and Owen, 8.

"I would love to see them graduate from high school. That's one of the things that keeps me going."

Doctors stress it is extremely rare for the same patient to receive not one, but two organ transplants.

There are currently more than 115-thousand men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list.