COVID-19 impacting donor pool for Kill Devil Hills mom in need of 3rd double lung transplant

Posted at 2:43 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-27 18:52:02-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. and KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. - We last visited with Tricia Lawrenson in Durham on March 10 - she and her husband moved there to be closer to Duke Medical Center.

"I've been feeling really well, I am still continuing to build up strength," Tricia said.

News 3 was there in March as Tricia worked to strengthen her body to prepare for her third double lung transplant. The 37-year-old mother of two will be only the 12th American to receive the risky and rare surgery.

"I am waiting every day to get a call from Duke," Tricia said.

Tricia told News 3 Monday, she will be undergoing surgery for her third double lung transport soon. She says the first set was not a match after testing, but they were able to find another donor.

The average wait time for a new set of lungs at Duke's transplant center is about 17 days; as of April 2, Tricia is at day 23. But the life-saving call she needs could be drawn out even longer due to the coronavirus.

"A lot of the transplant facilities in the country have shut down, but Duke actually is still open, likely because they are still willing to do these high-risk surgeries," said Nathan Lawrenson, Tricia's husband.

However, the donor pool for Tricia right now is incredibly thin. That's because Duke is not accepting any donors from any hospital that has treated someone for the virus.

"It's been a little frustrating, but at the same time we are not in a place of panic," Nathan said. "We know that Duke is doing this for the safety of patients, staff, nurses, doctors and surgeons."

Then, when the call comes, the eight-hour surgery requires about 10 units of blood. During this pandemic, the nationwide blood supply is low.

"My surgeons need the blood for transfusions. If they don't have the blood needed in the bank, they would have to postpone or cancel the surgery all together," explained Tricia.

Even with roadblocks, she is pressing on with Nathan by her side. The couple made the tough decision to leave their children in Kill Devil Hills with family to prevent her from possibly getting sick.

Right now, Tricia's lung capacity is only at 23% and she is immuno-compromised, so she has to be more cautious then she already is in this new environment.

"I've always been very aware of my surroundings, washing hands, staying away, but now I am worried about the people around me," said Tricia.

"People with chronic illnesses have to live their lives everyday thinking about the others around them. We would beg people to stay home - it could save lives like Tricia's," said Nathan.

Nathan, also her full-time caregiver, won't be with her if she goes in for the surgery - another trickle-down impact of COVID-19.

"No visitors are allowed inside. It's a bit scary for me to think of that," Nathan said.

So, during this time of sheltering in place, the couple is soaking up every second together.

"Having quality time for what God has given me is what I am focused on. We don't know what we have in our future, so it's been nice to love on my kids and relatives and enjoy this time," Tricia said.

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