3rd double lung transplant a success for Kill Devil Hills mother of 2

Posted at 12:50 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 15:54:05-04

KILL DEVIL HILLS and DURHAM, N.C. - We have been following the journey of Tricia Lawrenson for months.

On Monday, the 37-year-old Kill Devil Hills woman received her third new set of lungs in a risky and rare surgery performed at Duke Hospital.

"We got in the car, rushed to the hospital, and I let her out with her suitcase and kissed her goodbye," said Nathan Lawrenson, Tricia's husband.

Unlike the last two transplants, Nathan wasn't able to go inside to be by her side due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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"We prayed together and did a FaceTime chat with our kids, but yes, as a caregiver, it's hard to pass her off and not be with her," Nathan explained.

Tricia, born with cystic fibrosis, was hours away from being the 12th American - and the sixth at Duke - to receive a rare third double lung transplant.

"Sunday night around 9:30 p.m. I saw the phone ring, and I handed it to Tricia. She just started hyperventilating; she was so excited," said Nathan.

Tricia and Nathan moved to Durham two months ago to start Tricia on physical therapy. She came to Duke weighing only 100 pounds with a 20% lung capacity.

"As she went into surgery, she was the strongest she had ever been, so that's great news. Duke really does a good job of building the body up," said Nathan.

The average wait time for a new set of lungs at Duke is 17 days.

"She was in the hospital for a couple hours on Sunday night when the team came in and said, 'We have bad news,' but in the same breath, good news," Nathan said.

Surgeons quickly found the first lung donor to not be viable, but her journey to breathe free was still within reach.

"Tricia waited 53 days on the waiting list; now all of a sudden, she has two donors within a few hours. It was really a coincidence," Nathan said.

Eleven hours later, Tricia's life-saving third transplant surgery was a success.

"We know the donor was high-risk, and we were told the donor was very young. The doctors said the lungs were pristine and the surgery went smoothly," Nathan said.

But the battle isn't over for Tricia.

"The surgery was the easy part. Once she gets in the ICU, she is going to have to get off the ventilator and breathe on her own," Nathan said.

Nathan originally said it could be several weeks - if not longer - until Tricia is discharged.

"She is going to want to get up and go and push herself so she can get back home to her kids," he said.

On April 30 News 3 got word that Tricia is skipping the ICU and going right to rehab! She is awake and already walking!

It's all thanks to a stranger who gave Tricia the gift of life.

"To know there are people out there who will give the greatest gift on the worst day of their life - we do not take that for granted. We know as we are celebrating, someone else is devastated," Nathan said.

To learn more about becoming an organ donor, click here.