31
MAY
2019

Maria Gamboa, 47

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My story begins in April 2007 in Caracas, Venezuela. After surviving atypical viral pneumonia, chronic encephalitis and several days in a coma, I was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, which caused significant lung damage. Because of pulmonary fibrosis caused by scleroderma, in 2011 I was connected to oxygen. As time passed, my respiratory capacity was decreasing, making the simplest tasks of daily life nearly impossible. Pulmonary fibrosis is the main cause of death of this disease.

I spent three years looking to be admitted for a double lung transplant. I was rejected by many transplant centers in Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and eight centers in the U.S. because of the scleroderma. Then in October 2014 I was admitted to the National Waiting List for a transplant by the Cleveland Clinic. On December 23, 2014, I received, thanks to my donor, the best gift of my life: a double lung transplant.

Something that I feel very proud of is having overcome all the physical changes in my body and face. My biggest emphasis is to remind everyone that life is beautiful regardless of the adversities that are presented to us. I understand something that everyone takes for granted: the fact that to live, we need to breathe. Something that is natural and involuntary for most, for me, means to be alive. I have no doubt that every day lived is a day won, because life begins with every breath.