“I felt like I was always sitting on the sidelines,” says Duke, 56, who has lived with her family in Prescott for nearly three decades. “I don’t have to just sit and watch my five grandkids anymore. Grandma can play too.”
In April of this year, Duke’s condition suddenly worsened. During lung transplant candidacy tests in St. Joseph’s cardiac cath lab, she slipped into cardiac arrest and had to have emergency open heart surgery.
While recovering at home in Prescott, her lung function rapidly declined and Duke was airlifted back to the Phoenix hospital for her best chance at having a life-saving lung transplant.
“I couldn’t have been sent to a better place. They have a rare combination of intelligence and compassion, and saved my life twice,” says Duke. “I truly feel that I’m thriving because of the grace of God and St. Joseph’s.”
Desperately ill upon her arrival, Duke received new lungs just 30 days after her heart surgery on May 8.
“Many other transplant centers will not take a case like Margaret’s,” explains Rajat Walia, MD, a leading pulmonologist and medical director of St. Joseph’s lung transplant program. “Though she was very ill and still recovering from open heart surgery, we knew we could help Margaret heal to become strong enough for a double lung transplant and that our transplant surgeons could approach the surgery differently.”
Lung transplants are among the most complicated surgical procedures. Following surgery, lung transplant recipients receive lifelong care and regular check-ups with transplant pulmonologists. In the United States, more than 116,000 men, women and children currently need life-saving organ transplants.
Dr. Walia notes that Duke has been uniquely positive throughout the process, “With a solid support system, Margaret is the epitome of a strong-willed person who wants to live and live well. I am very happy for Margaret and her family.”
Duke says she feels blessed and will do everything she can to take care of her new lungs, “because they were so graciously given by someone else’s loved one.”
“It’s been a real rollercoaster and a lot of work since my surgery from physical therapy to occupational therapy,” says Duke. “I got so sick, so quickly. I can’t thank my loving family and community enough for all of their support—and my husband, Paul, who literally hasn’t left my side.”
St. Joseph’s is home to the only lung transplant program in Arizona and one of the busiest in the Southwest. The hospital’s lung transplant program, which is just six-years-old, has performed more than 200 transplants and included patients from around the nation, ages 16 to 71.