PHOENIX, Ariz. (May 9, 2019) – For Austin, Texas woman Ali Endlich, 40, every day is Mother’s Day; a day to celebrate her family after becoming a stage-3 cancer survivor and later receiving an unexpected, life-saving double lung transplant at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute in Phoenix. This Mother’s Day will be extra special for Endlich as she will be celebrating how her donated lungs have enabled her to cheer recently during her son’s first soccer game and sing her daughter’s praises at her upcoming first grade performance.
“While I am elated to celebrate my second Mother’s Day after transplant, I am also reminded that there is a mother out there who is suffering without her grown child, my donor angel,” says Endlich. “It is a loss beyond anything a parent should have to bear. I can only hope the thought of my chest rising and falling with each breath gives her a moment of comfort, knowing her loved one’s light is still with us. If we ever meet, I would wish her a happy Mother’s Day and tell her, ‘Your child was amazing, in-part because they had a mother who loved them fiercely. This intangible gift is now imprinted on me and I am forever grateful.’”
For her oldest child, Elin Endlich, “Mom” is a bit of a superhero. During a school assignment earlier this year, students in Elin’s first grade class at Kiker Elementary were tasked with writing about and illustrating their “luckiest day ever.” Elin chose Sept. 16, 2016, the day her mom was finally able to return home to Austin after the transplant.
“I picked this day because it was VERY special to me,” says Elin, 7. “I didn’t really get to see my mom a whole lot for the four months when she was away, but now I do. Before she left, she got me and my brother both presents. On Mother’s Day, I’m going to get my mom a Wonder Woman mug. I am sure she will love it!”
In May 2017, the Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor and mother-of-two flew to a hospital in Denver for a second opinion about her chronic respiratory difficulties – which included a chronic cough, worsening shortness of breath and repeated lung infections. During diagnostic testing, Endlich’s lungs crashed. Lucky to be in the hospital when this happened, doctors immediately began working on a referral and emergency medical air transportation to one of the nation’s largest lung transplant programs–Norton Thoracic Institute, which is part of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
Officially diagnosed with interstitial lung disease, Endlich was listed for transplant at Norton in June 2017 and received the gift of life just three days later. Lung transplants are among the most complex medical procedures and require close follow-up care. Norton requires lung transplant patients to remain within a two hour radius of the hospital for a minimum of three months after transplant.
A physical therapist by trade who was always active prior to her illness, Endlich did her best to stay active in the ICU before transplant and was eager to return to running. She even joined a boot camp class upon returning home and getting the approval from her medical team in Phoenix. Endlich met her husband, Mike, playing soccer and the two still enjoy staying active on the soccer field, especially with their two children, Elin and Keegan.
About Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center
Located in the heart of Phoenix, Ariz., St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center is a 586-bed, not-for-profit hospital that provides a wide range of health, social and support services with special advocacy for the poor and underserved. St. Joseph’s is a nationally recognized center for quality tertiary care, medical education and research. It includes the internationally renowned Barrow Neurological Institute, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Norton Thoracic Institute. U.S. News & World Report routinely ranks St. Joseph’s among the best hospitals in the United States for neurology and neurosurgery. For more information please visit our website at www.dignityhealth.org/stjosephs.