Meet Terri Pilawa

In August 2009, Terri married her best friend to start a life and future with the man she loved. She was struggling with shortness of breath, and this was scary for her. This is where her long journey of love, life and sacrifice began.

In 2010, her shortness of breath worsened Terri went to her PCP and was given an inhalant and prednisone for a diagnosis of asthma. Terri was trying to live her life continuing work, exercise and attending dance class.

In June 2012, Terri living in Las Vegas, Nevada, went to a specialist after many hospital visits and 911 calls. She was diagnosed with NSIP (Non Specific Interstitial Pneumonia) Pulmonary Fibrosis after an open lung biopsy. Terri’s condition took a turn for the worse, she was hospitalized with a severe lung infection called MAC (Mycobacterium avium complex) Terri was placed on oxygen 24/7 and on immune suppressant medications. She was told that she had 5 years of life to live and would now need a life saving double lung transplant. Terri was sent to UCLA for treatment, since there’s no lung transplant center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In 2013, Terri left her newly wed husband and young son and moved to California, to be with her family who would care for her as she was in a hospital bed and in a wheelchair. This disease was taking Terri’s breath away her life had changed, she no longer worked and she quit dancing and she couldn’t do much exercise or move without having coughing spasm episodes.

In 2014, Terri was transferred to USC Keck Medical for evaluation for transplant. Terri kept her faith and was very hopeful. She was being hospitalized because she need so much oxygen support up to 80 liters on the high flow machine. She was also given an underling diagnosis of Pulmonary Hypertension. On October 14, 2014, Terri was placed on the double lung transplant list with UNOS.

Terri waited 8 long months some of that time in hospice. She received “the call” Terri was already in the hospital at USC Keck Medical, she was very sick, her husband was with her. Terri answers her cell phone and it’s her surgeon telling her that her wait was over and she had lungs for her, she needed to give constant because they were high risk lungs. Because Terri was very sick she gave her constant. Dr. Hackmann, said get prepared and tell your family you’ll be in surgery in a couple of hours. Terri was full of joy, but her heart ached for her Donor and Donor’s family.

On June 24, 2015, at 3:00am Terri was in surgery a week after her birthday. Terri was given a second chance of life. Terri had a rough recovery, but is very grateful and full of life, she breaths freely due to her Donor.

She received a second chance of life June 24, 2015

Because of Terri’s donor she is able to take a deep breath without coughing. She honors her donor with every step she takes. With her new lungs she is able to travel with her husband, attend concerts, go to the movies, attend family parties spend time with family and friends.

Terri has found her purpose and pays it forward with love, inspiration and hope. She is a proud One Legacy Ambassador, Nevada Donor Network Advocate, UNOS Ambassador, Howl the Owl Ambassador and CEO of One Breath Foundation. She spends her time speaking at functions and educating communities on organ, eye and tissue donation. She has monthly support group meetings with One Breath Foundation members to educate, inform and share her personal journey about lung diseases.

In April 2019, Terri was privileged to met her Donor family during Donate Life Month. She met her Donor’s Mom and Dad, she found out her Donor was a 22 year old young women named Maria Berfalia Quinteros. Terri will continue to share her story in honor of her Donor Maria, who said “Yes” to donation saving her life.

On January 1, 2020, Terri’s dream came true she was elected to be a rider on the Tournament of Roses Parade Donate Life Float. As she took the 5 mile ride of her life holding a picture of her Donor Maria and Howl the Owl plush spreading the message about Donate Life! Helping others with Love.

On November 18, 2020, Terri was in need of a nose reconstruction, due to chronic use of prednisone this had damaged her nose cartilage. She signed a document for Donor Tissue just in case she needed it. When Terri woke up she had a new nose and her Doctor told her that he used Donor Tissue to recreate her a beautiful nose. Terri again is grateful for her Tissue Donor and will write a letter to her Donor family to thank them for their gift, that enhanced her life. Now Terri breaths freely without wheezing.

Terri is living her BEST TRANSPLANT LIFE!
Maria Terri Pilawa president

Short-term goals are to get my kidneys stronger and fully functioning. I am struggling with kidney failure, a side effect of taking so many medications to support a double lung transplant. I am staying positive and living healthy.

This is a photo of my Donor Maria Berfalia Quinteros, I am so grateful for this second chance at life. I am also heart broke that her family suffered a tremendous loss. The hardest and most rewarding choice for her family to make was organ donation. Very Thankful.

Watch Terri’s Memories on Facebook below.