Single mom given 24 months to live hopes for lung transplant
SENOIA, Ga. (AP) — Amy Majors can only move 50 feet within the confines of her Senoia home.
Although if the 33-year-old single mother woman stretches far enough, she can reach the carport, where she wistfully watches her young son Michael play outdoors.
Majors is tethered to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day, connected by a tube that is a thin lifeline between her existence and an almost certain death.
The Senoia woman is living on borrowed time.
Doctors say she needs a double lung transplant within the next two years.
“If I don’t get the transplant, the doctors give me 24 months,” Majors said.
“I have a 6-year-old. I have too much to do. I’ve got to help him with his homework and go through school. I want to see him go to prom and to college. I want to live.”
Majors has Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, or PAH, a disease she inherited from her biological mother.
The Senoia native was adopted as a young girl and learned about the disease when she was 13 years old.
According to lung.org, PAH is high blood pressure within the lungs. The disease forms scar tissue in the blood vessels, causing them to narrow and making it harder for blood to flow through the lungs.
Patients with PAH may feel as if they’re slowly suffocating.
Majors was horrified by what she learned, but admitted at that time in her life, she felt invincible.
“When I googled ‘PAH,’ I thought it was the worst thing someone could ever go through,” she said. “But I played sports growing up, softball and volleyball. I thought, ‘I don’t have that.’ I thought I was fine.”
But in 2009, while Majors was 24 weeks pregnant with her first child, something went terribly wrong.
The then-25-year-old woman began fainting with little warning.
She was rushed to Piedmont Fayette hospital and then transferred to Piedmont Atlanta. After a series of tests, doctors delivered the devastating diagnosis: Majors had pulmonary arterial hypertension and was going into heart failure.
Specialists delivered another traumatic blow when they told Majors she would have to terminate her pregnancy.
“They told me I had seven days to live if I continued to move forward with pregnancy,” she remembered. “There was a 75 percent chance I would die giving birth to the baby naturally. Those percentages went up to 90 percent if I had a c-section.”
There was also no guarantee the baby, a little girl, would survive the birth either, Majors said.
Distraught by the news, she consulted other physicians and discussed the situation with her family.
Reluctantly, Majors decided to terminate her pregnancy to save her life.
The Senoia woman said it was one of the hardest decisions she’s ever made.
“I could tell it was serious because there were so many specialists coming in and out of my hospital room and decisions had to be made within a few days,” she said. “I never thought I would have to terminate a pregnancy. That was never an option for me. That decision was the first time I cried during my diagnosis.”
Majors spent 16 days in the hospital before being released.
Before she left, doctors inserted a port in her chest, plus gave her equipment that would pump life-saving medication into her body every 45 seconds.
Majors had to learn how to properly mix the medications before she went home, she said.
Eventually, her health stabilized. She was able to maintain her PAH symptoms through oral medications for the next few years.
In January 2012, Majors and her then-husband found themselves back at Piedmont Atlanta hospital.
This time, it was a joyous occasion. The couple was in the hospital for the birth of their adopted son, Michael.
“We were back in the same place and in the same maternity ward receiving the best gift of our lives,” Majors remembered. “We were there before and thought we had lost everything. But three years later, we felt like we gained everything back. It was an amazing feeling.”
From 2012 until 2016, Majors raised her son while working seven days a week at two different jobs: one as a Rite Aid pharmacy tech; the other as a home caregiver for the elderly and infirm.
In order to keep up her energy levels, doctors placed a new port and catheter in Majors chest, and gave her another medicinal pump.
But beginning in June 2016, Major’s health began to decline after a series of infections within her catheter, also known as a Hickman line, and in her intravenous line.
At one point, Majors said she almost bled to death after an open wound wouldn’t stop bleeding. Fortunately, surgeons were able to repair the injury.
While Major’s health deteriorated, so did her marriage, she said.
She and her husband divorced in 2017. Majors was given primary custody of Michael.
Infections continued to plague the now-single mother throughout 2017.
Once again, she found herself near death after having a bad reaction to an antibiotic.
“I slowly felt like I was suffocating,” Majors said. “I was looking at the hospital lights, tears rolling down my cheeks and thinking, ‘Is this how it’s going to end? I’m going to suffocate to death?’ Your breathing is cut off before your brain is, so you’re aware of what’s happening . you just can’t breathe.”
After recovering from the allergic reaction, she began coughing up blood.
Doctors rushed her into surgery and discovered some of the arterial vessels inside her lungs had burst, which is not uncommon for patients with PAH.
But they also noticed the disease and the recurring infections were taking a toll on Majors’ lungs and heart.
During a follow up appointment in April 2018, doctors informed Majors her only chance at survival was a double lung transplant.
According to Majors, the doctors told her, “This is what we need to do. The way you’re heading, we don’t have a lot of time.”
While time is not on her side, Majors is caught in a waiting game.
Majors said she needs to complete three days of physical and mental evaluations, plus prove she is financially stable before an Emory hospital committee will even consider placing her on the transplant list.
The transplant board will hold Majors’ fate in their hands.
“My case is reduced to a balance sheet,” she said. “The committee doesn’t know everything I’ve conquered in the past nine years, but my life depends on these 11 people. If I’m denied a transplant, that means someone else has hit the ‘game over’ button, and that scares me more than anything else.”
If approved, Majors may have to wait two or more years before a new set of lungs becomes available, according to emoryhealthcare.org.
While the transplant will give Majors a new lease on life, doctors also reportedly warned her that the surgery may only be temporary.
“I asked them, ‘What is my life expectancy after this?’ They said based off statistics, 10 to 12 years with the transplant,” she said. “The organs will have to be replaced every 10 years. The doctors said they’ve done a double lung transplant on the same person twice, but not three times.”
Despite the shocking revelation, Majors still plans to move forward with the transplant.
She said the decision is not just for her, but more as a gift to her 6-year-old son.
“I would rather give Michael the best 10 years of the best of my life, running around with him, chasing him, watching him playing football, getting his license, riding bicycles and traveling. Things I can’t do right now,” Majors said. “He’s depending on me. He’s my heart, my breath and my everything.
Majors hopes to head to Emory for testing in early June.
Information from: The Times-Herald, http://www.times-herald.com