On a recent snowy day, Jamie Purchase romped outside with her 10-year-old son, Colton, sculpting snow angels, sledding and shoveling.
What may seem like ordinary “snow day” activities to many are new breath blessings to Jamie.
As she arched her arms in the fluffy pillows of white, she thought not just of the snow angel coming into being beneath her, but also of the one who gave her the gift that allowed her to inhale these life moments.
After suffering from cystic fibrosis all her life, Purchase received a double-lung transplant at Spectrum Health last September. She does not know the identity of the donor, only that it was a 25-year-old woman.
“I wonder what she was like as a person and what her life was like,” Purchase, 32, said. “I sent a letter to my donor’s family right before Christmas, just to express my sense of gratitude and let them know I think of them and their loved one daily.”
Purchase can breathe again thanks to the donor and the skilled providers in Spectrum Health’s lung transplant program.
Her lung capacity was 25 percent prior to the transplant. Now she’s pushing 80 percent.
“It’s definitely life changing,” said Purchase, who lives in Vestaburg, south of Mount Pleasant. “I’m able to do a lot more in my home and more with my son.”
When her son had a snow day recently, she was able to play in the frigid temperatures for the first time in several years.
“Before the transplant, it was hard to breathe in the cold,” Purchase said. “It was nice to breathe the fresh air and not get out of breath. I was out there a good hour and a half.”
Purchase’s life has opened up in other ways, too. It’s easier to cook lasagna–her family’s favorite–and run the alley during a weekly bowling league.
“Really, it’s just the day-to-day stuff where I was limited–housework, laundry, things I’ve slowly been able to regain back,” she said. “I try to go out and walk with some ladies three days a week. I’m able to do grocery shopping.”
Purchase didn’t let on too much, but not being able to do those things was a blow to her self-esteem as a mother and a wife.
“I felt like it burdened my husband,” she said. “I would try sometimes, but it would just make me sicker.”
Purchase was diagnosed when she was 2 weeks old. She couldn’t participate in sports as a youngster. She couldn’t keep up with her friends.
When she reached middle school, a time when young people dream of their futures and career paths, Purchase could only stare ahead a handful of years–to age 21. Her life expectancy at that time.
“I always knew I was sick,” she said. “I always knew I was different. It was around that age that I really started to think that I could lose my life. I always felt like I was chasing a number. As I grew, the life expectancy grew.”
Purchase said without the transplant, her life expectancy would now be about 40 years old.
But thanks to a donor and a dedicated transplant team at Spectrum Health, Purchase is dreaming of a bright future, and to making snow angels–with her grandchildren.