Alice Vogt, the first person in South Africa to have a Double Lung Transplant procedure twice, has been given a third chance at life and made South African history in the process.
Imagine needing to get a Double Lung Transplant twice in the space of 10 years. This is Alice Vogt’s incredible story of survival and her journey through two Double Lung Transplant procedures.
Alice was diagnosed when she was young with Cystic Fibrosis which eventually became untreatable. After being moved to permanent oxygen in January 2008, her Doctors placed her on the organ donor list for a Double Lung transplant and after waiting just 8 months, she received her first Bi-Lateral Lung Transplant.
Alice went into chronic rejection of her bi-lateral lung transplant in 2013 and started treatment to slow down the process.
“I had a course of 24 sessions of Photopheresis in the period between Aug 2013 and May 2014. It was deemed successful as it drastically slowed down the decline of lung function that I was experiencing mid-2013”
Alice’s health drastically declined from October 2015 onwards and she was hospitalised with a Pseudomonas infection. This type of infection thrives in diseased lungs. She was hospitalised three times in 2016 because of the reoccurrence of the infection.
“In January 2016 I was admitted to hospital again… not feeling well at all. A biopsy was done and unfortunately, both lungs collapsed in Recovery. I was told that this was due to air trapping, which happens with the kind of rejection that I had. I woke up in ICU with 2 chest drains, and after a month in hospital I was able to return home, but I was now on oxygen 24/7.”
Thankfully in mid-2016 Alice underwent the work-up process for a transplant again. She was placed on the transplant list for a second time.
“I was really starting to get depressed as the work we do with Love Life; Gift Life has shown me how much is lacking with organ donation in this country, and how the number of transplants performed has declined since my first transplant.”
Alice waited a year and a half on the list before receiving the call that changed her life for the second time.
“A few weeks ago, shortly after midnight, my phone rang. It was my Dr!!! He said that they possibly had lungs for me!!!!! We had to be at the hospital by 3 am. We calmly packed and got ready. I started trying to get hold of family members and close friends. I was extremely excited!!!!”
“My mom and dad joined us at the hospital a little while later. The waiting part at the hospital was a bit of a blur… I tried reading, had to take a bath. Took a selfie. The time between the call and the transplant was a lot easier this time around!”
Alice went into surgery at around 8 am in the morning and was rolled out of theatre at 4 pm that afternoon. Her operation was a success and she became the first person to get a second successful Bi-Lateral Lung Transplant in South Africa. Her entire recovery has been a complete miracle, she bounced back and was awake and talking within 12 hours of the operation.
“I was so surprised when I woke up and heard that it’s only the early hours of the next day! It motivated me to try and push myself to get out of ICU. My ICU experience this time around was much better though. Probably partly because I knew what to expect, and also because it’s a new ICU which is much nicer than the old one!”
Going from needing an oxygen supplement 24/7 to not needing any just 10 days after a major surgery was Alice’s favourite part. Alice can now accomplish some of her long-standing goals.
“The last few years have been quite tough, so I’m really hoping that in the next few years Chris and I can live our lives a bit less stressed again and that the easy breathing will continue. We would love to travel again. I want to take part in the World Transplant Games again. I also want to be able to do more for Love Life; Gift Life and help us transform organ donation in this country. Right now I’m still being monitored EXTREMELY CLOSELY, as all of this is a first and my Dr is being super vigilant.”
“But at least all these dreams have a chance of becoming a reality now, thanks to my donor family. I have so much love for them that I can’t actually put it into words (although I will try when I write them a Thank You letter). Thinking of them every day in their time of grief, especially with the holidays coming up”
Alice has a blog where she discusses her experience as a double Bi-Lateral Lung Transplant recipient. Her blog is called ‘Living Life Breathlessly” and you can read about her journey here.
Alice spoke to Brent Lindeque on Cliffcentral about her journey. She wants to impart a message to everyone listening to the interview or reading this story, about the importance of discussing your organ donation wishes with your family.
At the end of the day, the final decision lies with them even if it is your personal wish. So make it known today before your life is wasted.
You can get more information about organ donation from the Love Life; Gift Life website here.