I was referred to the pulmonology department at UCLA because I needed higher level of care to treat my follicular bronchiolitis. What in 2013 appeared to be a scary unknown has turned out to be a transformational journey. Over the next three years, my condition deteriorated to the point of needing a double lung transplant, which I had in November 2016. Thank you to Jay and Stephanie for getting me ready for transplant and to Abbas Ardehali, who performed my surgery. A humble leader, Dr. Ardenhali sets the standard of excellence, quality and kindness for this department. Nurses such as Kristen and Leo helped me regain my strength in 7ICU, and everyone there made me feel important.
Although healing has not come without challenges, it’s been in those challenges I have experienced the skill and talent UCLA is known for. More important, I have benefited from this talented team’s goodness and human kindness. My personal hero, Dr. Ariss DerHovanessian, is the exceptional doctor who keeps me alive. He listens to my concerns, answers my questions, includes me in treatment decisions, thinks outside the box and makes me laugh even when things get challenging . . . I know he is committed to my well-being.
All this praise for the pulmonology department must also recognize the staff members who live out the respect for patients, day in and day out. I am thankful for Maria at the reception desk, who goes above and beyond the call of duty. Jan Michael and Jennifer take care of my vitals when I check in. And a day there, for me, would not be complete without seeing my super amazing Transplant Coordinator, Leslie Nieva. She is my lifeline. She stays on top of things, knows me and always puts a smile on my face.
I am forever grateful to my donor’s family for their selfless, life-bestowing gift even while facing their own loss. I have been given a second chance. Today, my energy is focused on maximizing my health, on spending time with loved ones and on opening a teen center for youth with disabilities. My daughter’s college career has been shaped by my journey here; she is changing her major to biology. While studying in South Africa, she recently visited the Heart of Cape Town Museum. She stood where the first heart transplant took place, fifty years ago! She was excited beyond words.
Transformation does not happen in isolation. My experience with lung disease has introduced me to a group of professionals who are leaders in their field, passionate about what they do, and who work together to help make the patient’s experience as good as it can be. How can you not want to return the smiles, attention, kindness and professionalism, along with the skill that all these people pour out onto their patients every day. I come see family when I visit Suite 365-B in the 200 building. This is my village.