Meet Natalia Guillén

My name is Natalia Guillén, and I am a recipient of a lung transplant. I am 68 years old and have been married to my husband for 50 years. We have five daughters and five grandchildren.

My journey began in 2018 when I started experiencing severe fatigue and difficulty breathing. Simple tasks, like walking short distances, would leave me breathless. Recognizing the increasing frequency of these symptoms, I decided to consult my doctor. After numerous tests, Dr. Lusine Melik-Adamyan diagnosed me with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. It was a moment that marked the beginning of a challenging journey, both for me and my family. In 2019, my energy levels continued to plummet, and my breathing difficulties worsened. Sleep eluded me, and I started relying on oxygen, gradually increasing the liters. I faced two crises that left me physically drained. My doctor referred me to UCLA, where they considered me as a potential candidate for a lung transplant. Unfortunately, our first attempt was unsuccessful. However, we persisted, and it wasn’t until my second appointment that I received an evaluation as a potential transplant candidate. After undergoing all the necessary tests, I was deemed a suitable candidate, but we faced another obstacle when the surgeon declined approval due to my weight loss, totaling 42 pounds during the course of my illness.
In 2020, my husband and daughters embarked on the journey of securing the necessary approvals to place me on the transplant list. This process included dealing with insurance, consultations with a psychologist and dentist, interaction with social workers, and more. However, our greatest challenge was gaining the surgeon’s approval, as I needed to reach a weight of 100 pounds to be considered for the transplant. I was referred to a nutritionist, and my daughters diligently worked to help me gain weight through a healthy diet. Little did I anticipate how challenging it would be to digest food when you have so little oxygen. The process was slow, but every gram gained mattered. By then, I was reliant on a wheelchair and oxygen 24/7, and I could witness the toll my illness was taking on my body.

In early October 2020, the oxygen at home was no longer sufficient. Breathing became almost impossible. My worried daughter contacted Dr. Shino at UCLA, who advised that they rush me to the emergency room. I was soon hospitalized, and within a few days, I was placed third on the transplant list.

 

 

She received a second chance of life October 31, 2020

On October 31, 2020, I underwent surgery, weighing 99 pounds. The procedure lasted five hours, and I received a single lung transplant. A year after my transplant, I attempted to reach out to my donor’s family but did not receive a response. All I know is that she was a young woman, aged between 25 and 30. I hold hope that one day they will contact me. For now, I respect and understand their decision. I am eternally grateful to my donor for the precious gift she gave me. I pray for her and her family. Thanks to her, today I can savor life, cherish my family, and breathe deeply.
My family and I learned about the One Breath Foundation through UCLA. The foundation has been an incredible blessing to my family, offering unwavering support, words of encouragement, and guidance when we had nowhere else to turn. We could relate to the stories of others in the group, and we never felt alone during this journey.
I survived a harrowing illness during a pandemic, and I’ve been given a second chance at life, thanks to the unwavering support of my daughters and husband, the expertise of the doctors, the selflessness of my donor, and the guidance of the One Breath Foundation. I’m convinced that this was nothing short of a miracle, and I believe that God never let go of my hand. I am filled with boundless gratitude.

A SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE

On October 29, 2020, the phone rang in my hospital room. The nurse answered and delivered the incredible news that there was a donor match for me. I will never forget the expressive eyes of that nurse.