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Sharon's Story

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SARCOIDOSIS

In the 1980s, Sharon knew something was wrong when she woke up one morning and couldn’t see clearly. Upon examination, local doctors discovered abnormal blood vessels growing out of scar tissue around her eyes. “They hadn’t seen anything like it,” says Sharon. She received cryotherapy treatment to stop the vessels from bleeding, but her vision worsened, and a detached retina sent her back to the doctor’s office. This time, a biopsy of a nodule found on her neck revealed granulomas, or clumps of inflammatory cells. When they identified abnormal lung imaging, Sharon was diagnosed with sarcoidosis.

Over the next few years Sharon took medication for asthma-like symptoms, but only on an as-needed basis. Relatively symptom-free, she retired and enjoyed spending her newfound free time in the garden with her husband, Larry. They made plans to travel together. However, Sharon soon began having trouble walking. She couldn’t climb up stairs without struggling to catch her breathe. “It was hard for her to just get out of bed,” adds Larry.

“It seemed like my symptoms were suddenly getting worse every month,” says Sharon. A self-described independent and hopeful woman, it was difficult for her to adjust to relying on an oxygen machine and rollator. “It got to the point where [my doctor] knew it was only a matter of time before I might have a lot of major problems,” adds Sharon, “so he told me to go to Temple.”

With a dedicated program for sarcoidosis, the Temple Lung Center is the first institution in the region (and one of the few in the world) that holds an official international designation of a ‘Sarcoidosis Clinic’. This recognizes Temple’s commitment to meeting the needs of sarcoidosis patients and furthering treatment and research advancements. 

Sharon met with Dr. Rohit Gupta, director of the sarcoidosis program, and had several tests confirming sarcoidosis-associated pulmonary hypertension and respiratory failure. She was soon listed as a candidate for lung transplantation

“Everything happened pretty quickly after that,” says Sharon. “I didn’t feel very nervous or anxious,” shares Sharon. “I had confidence in my care team. I knew they gave me the best doctors.” She says she felt especially prepared thanks to a support luncheon hosted by the Temple transplant team. When the call came a few weeks later, she and Larry drove through a snowstorm to get to the hospital on time. Within 24 hours, Sharon had two new lungs.

Today, Sharon no longer needs oxygen support or her wheelchair. She is back in the garden with Larry and they’re looking forward to an upcoming cruise with family and friends. “I can’t explain what it means to be able to just breathe again,” says Sharon. “It’s a blessing. The freedom I now have… it’s a new lease on life.”