Lung transplant patients thankful for friendship

February 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A long struggle with a life-threatening disease has lead to a powerful friendship for two young women being treated at Stanford. And thanks to doctors at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, both are looking towards brighter futures and a friendship to last a lifetime.

Emma Greene and Tiffany Senter may have more in common than most friends. They're both straight A students, both are heading off to college, and both were born with the same life-threatening diseases.

"It was very difficult. I had about 30 percent lung function and just doing the everyday activities was a challenge," said Senter.

"I really kind of had almost no life," said Greene.

Greene and Senter both suffered from cystic fibrosis, a congenital disease so severe it was robbing them of ability to breathe. Doctors at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford told the young women, they would each need a double lung transplant.

"Had they not transplanted, I don't think either one of them would have survived more than a year," said Carol Conrad, M.D., from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

Greene's case was complicated even further because she needed a liver transplant as well. Meaning she would have to wait on two separate donor lists at the same time.

Of course the waiting was excruciating. Greene was with her family in Lodi, Senter was waiting with hers at Shasta Lake. To help them handle the pressure, their doctor decided to introduce the two women, who had never met in person. "We started emailing each other and found out that we're like the same height and same weight," said Greene.

"It was awesome that we were able to be in contact because you can't just find many people that are sharing the same disease," said Senter.

Their friendship had grown by the time they were finally able to exchange the same life changing message.

"We had talked for so long about what it was going to be like when we both finally got that call, so when I had hear that she got the call, I was just overjoyed with excitement for her," said Senter.

"I was about a month out from mine and we were going to get dinner and got a text from her saying, 'I got the call.' And I was like, 'What?' I was just really, really, really excited," said Greene.

The new friends would receive their transplants within a month of each other. Emma's double lung and liver transplant was the first of its kind ever performed at Lucile Packard. Masks protected their weakened immune systems during recovery.

"I visited her in the hospital. She still wasn't feeling very good. So I brought her some lemon meringue pie," said Greene.

Both transplants were successful. While Greene is home in Lodi, Senter is finishing her recovery at the Ronald McDonald House near Stanford. She expects to go home soon with her mom.

"This completely changed my life and if it wasn't for her just being strong and my donor and just having faith, I don't think I would be here today. So, I'm very thankful," said Senter.

They're thankful for the gift of life and friendship.

As for the future, Greene is starting at UC Davis this fall. Senter hopes to become a pediatric nurse and perhaps someday work at Lucile Packard.

Written and produced by Tim Didion

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