No matter how dark the day, no matter how bleak the situation, don’t ever give up.
That’s the message from Lauren Averitt, the young South Carolina woman with cystic fibrosis who says she was betrayed by Duke University for reneging on its promise to give her a new set of lungs.
WorldNetDaily broke the story two months ago that officials at Duke Medical Center had Averitt move to Durham, N.C., to be prepared for a double lung transplant, only to tell her “out of the blue” she wouldn’t be getting new organs and she should go back home, fearing she wouldn’t survive long after the transplant.
But Lauren refused to roll over and play dead, and today she’s finally breathing on her own with a new set of lungs courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Don’t always believe what people tell you,” Averitt said from her hospital bed where she’s recuperating from surgery. “[Duke] told me to go home and die, and instead I’m a few miles down the road with new lungs.”
Averitt underwent almost seven hours of surgery in the early morning hours of Oct. 29, as Dr. Craig Selzman transplanted two lungs from a single donor, while another woman at UNC received the donor’s heart.
“I can breathe! I can talk!” shouts Lauren. “Everybody says sit down and be still, but I want to be roaming around. … It’s a miracle – I’m a miracle.”
Selzman tells WorldNetDaily statistics compiled by UNC show about 60 percent of transplant recipients with CF are still alive five years after their operations, adding Lauren’s prognosis is good.
UNC cardiothoracic surgeon Craig Selzman led transplant team
“She’s got a fresh start just like everyone else and maybe she’ll throw the statistics in the water,” Selzman said. “The bottom line is these patients are really suffering. You don’t live long in the condition she was in. She was doing worse and worse [before the transplant].”
Lauren’s case sparked outrage across America after Duke pulmonologist Dr. Mark Steele announced in September he didn’t think she’d make it long past surgery, citing a 40 percent rate of survival among patients with the B. cepacia infection. This, after officials had Lauren move near the medical center and had her undergo extensive preparations.
“I went numb I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe it,” the 28-year-old Averitt told WorldNetDaily at the time. “I’m lost. I don’t know where to go from here. There was no alternate plan. There’s only one way to go home – with new lungs. You either die here or you go home with new lungs.”
In response to the story, Duke University received numerous messages from the public urging the college’s medical center to reconsider.
“I believe you are wrong to lead this person on for so long and ask her to meet the many requirements she has met and then to ‘pull the plug’ on her (chances for survival),” Marcus White, a safety specialist in the U.S. Navy wrote Duke.
Others, like Deborah Gould, blasted Duke for having treated 17-year-old Jesica Santillan, an illegal alien smuggled into America solely for new organs only to die after the university gave her organs with the wrong blood type:
I find it ironic that Duke was able to find a lung-heart transplant for an
illegal teen-ager, not one set but two sets and the second transplant had no
chance of success – but they cannot find a transplant for Lauren who has a
40 percent chance of success. Perhaps the only thing wrong with Lauren … is that [she is a] law-abiding U.S. citizen.
Despite being escorted out of the Duke Medical Center in tears, Lauren did not surrender, and was able to get herself on the waiting list at UNC. She believes the rejection at Duke was actually a blessing in disguise, as she was placed in a more auspicious position numerically.
“I wouldn’t want anything to do with Duke, but they did do me a big favor,” Lauren says in retrospect.
Lauren walking 3 days after lung surgery
Though Averitt is now breathing without the aid of any oxygen, she’s still dealing with considerable pain from the operation. She’s thankful for the public’s prayers and messages she’s received on her own website and RaceRap.com, a Virginia-based messageboard for auto-racing fans which helped publicize her plight. She printed out many of the wishes, and kept them in the hospital to encourage her.
Averitt says her doctors say she’s “above the curve” when it comes to recovery, and she’ll be monitored in the area for three months before she can move back to Charleston, S.C.
She’s now urging everyone to consider becoming organ donors to help save the lives of thousands of others who still remain on waiting lists.