How would you describe your experience in the hospital?
I can't speak highly enough about everyone I met. The doctors, the staff, the nurses, the respiratory therapists – they were all there for me.
The nurses in critical care were amazing. They got me up out of bed and walking shortly after surgery. Within 48 hours of my lung transplant, I did three laps around the critical care unit. By the time I was discharged nine days later, I'd walked three-fourths of a mile just in the hospital corridors.
What was it like being in Dr. Kukreja's care?
She was phenomenal. She was both an incredibly skilled surgeon and a very approachable human being. I remember seeing her in the early hours of the morning after my surgery. She was coming in to check on me and she looked like an angel. A few weeks later, I saw her at a hospital event and started to cry. I gave her a hug and told her she'd saved my life.
How are you feeling now?
Fantastic. I forget that I had a transplant sometimes. When you hit the depths of illness and disease, to come back is such a joy.
I go to the gym five days a week. I take a lot of precautions to guard against infections, but it's important for me to continue teaching fitness classes. I love it. I feel good. I don't have any shortness of breath. I don't think I could be doing any better.
The technical expertise of the team, the human body, the determination of the patient – it's all part and parcel of an excellent recovery.
What's your advice to people who are considering a transplant?
Stay as active as you can. The stronger you are going into the procedure, the stronger you'll be coming out. And connect with other patients. My team at UCSF connected me one-on-one with a lung transplant patient and with a support group. That support got me through the last couple of months, when I was at my sickest.
What surprised you most about the experience?
When I was transplanted, I never envisioned the recovery would be as robust as it has been. I never dreamed I would be teaching fitness classes again, and I lead four spin classes and a step class every week. I'm a very fortunate person all around.