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Double-Lung Transplant Gave Her a New Life. Virus Claimed It

Joanne Mellady lived more than twice as long as the average for lung transplant patients
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 27, 2020 2:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – Before her double-lung transplant, Joanne Mellady could barely put on a shirt without losing her breath. Afterward, she barely stopped moving. Mellady, who died of the coronavirus in March, had a bucket list that made her family blush, the AP reports. Since getting her transplant in 2007, the widow and former technology consultant from the town of Washington, NH, traveled in her RV up and down the East Coast and made trips to Alaska and the Grand Canyon. Mellady, 67, transformed herself from a shy person dependent on oxygen around the clock to a vivacious risk taker willing to try almost anything. Hang gliding, skiing, skateboarding, and kayaking were among the thrills she took on.

Before her death, Mellady was talking of a return visit to Alaska this summer and of participating again in the Transplant Games (now postponed). She won medals in bocce, bowling, and swimming in past competitions and was hoping to compete in the golf event. For much of her earlier life in Massachusetts, Mellady was hobbled by a mysterious lung condition. Then, in her late 30s, she tested positive for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic disorder. The inherited condition predisposes people to lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the emphysema Mellady developed before her transplant. For the 13 years after her transplant, Mellady served as an inspiration for other patients about to undergo similar transplants, a source of support for their relatives and a wealth of information for doctors studying her condition. (More on her incredible life here.)


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