Transplant patient moves to Gift of Life with only one suitcase - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Transplant patient moves to Gift of Life with only one suitcase

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- Organ transplants save lives every day, and many of those life-saving procedures take place in the Med City. For one couple, leaving their entire life behind and moving to the Gift of Life Transplant House is what gave them a chance at a better one.

It was 22 years ago that Jan Lewis got the news that she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, with her own body attacking her lung tissue.

"I was fairly stable for quite awhile, and then about 5 or 6 years ago I started to gradually get worse," Lewis said.

Jan and her husband Justin lived in Oregon, and they both made trip after trip to the Mayo Clinic. Three years ago, Jan was put on the lung transplant list, and it was then that they made a decision. They packed one suitcase, and hit the road.

"We actually did move to the Gift of Life, and it is this wonderful place where you can just stay while you're waiting," Lewis said. "Of course, we didn't have any idea we'd be waiting this long."

It was only weeks ago that Jan got news that she would receive a new lung. She was rushed into surgery on November 2nd. Only a few weeks later, she is off oxygen.

"The doctors are very happy with my progress. You never know how long this is going to last and hopefully it will last a long time," Lewis said.

Both Jan and her husband feel that the progress she has made is due in large part to the Gift of Life Transplant House.

"It was really hard to keep going, day after day after day. People here would say 'Don't give up, keep hoping,' and there is a lot of hope, you have to have hope."

"I've seen people that I was sure wouldn't survive end up going home," her husband Justin adds, "and part of it is because of this place."

Jan and Justin will return to Oregon in February, back to the life they once knew, but for the person who donated the lung, they offer an eternity of gratitude.

"Thank you so much," Lewis said. "We have just been overwhelmed by it, the generosity and the forward thinking. I know that it is a tragic time for that family and it is such a happy time for us. It's hard to put the two together. Just thank you so much."

The Gift of Life Transplant House is available to anyone who is going through a transplant procedure, offering a place to live and a starting point on the road to recovery.

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