All through her life, Jennifer Jones always thought she just suffered from bad asthma. However, at the age of 29, Jennifer was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder with a life expectancy rate of 37 that is normally identified in infancy. In October, last year, the now 40 year old underwent a lung transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, after the disease had reduced her lung function to 10 percent. Her fiancé, Robert Ronnenberg, recorded the breathtaking moment she took her first breath on camera.
As a child, Jennifer was tested for cystic fibrosis (CF), a progressive disorder that leads to the buildup of mucus of the lungs that blocks the airways over time. The results came back negative. “Throughout her life she struggled with breathing and had an incredibly frequent cough, which was explained as asthma or allergies and treated as such,” Robert said.
In 2007 Jennifer’s second child, Wes, was tested for multiple forms of diseases and doctors found he was a carrier of CF. While explaining her son’s results, the genetic counselor noticed Jennifer’s frequent small coughs and offered to test her again. It was then that she was diagnosed with the disease that is usually diagnosed before a person reaches the age of two. The second test revealed that she had about 65 percent of her lung function.
In the years following her diagnosis Jennifer took daily medicines, had breathing treatments and routine stays in the hospital once or twice a year to try to maintain her health as long as possible, but it was slowly declining. Her condition took a dramatic turn late in October of 2016 and she was put on oxygen full time. In June 2017 she was added to the lung donor list and by October she was hospitalized and told she would likely be there until a new set of lungs became available.
On the morning of October 18th, breathing tests indicated that she had just over 10 percent of her lung function left. “It just so happens that it was the afternoon of that same day she received the call we’ve been waiting for: there were lungs for her,” Robert said.
After the surgery, Robert began filming the removal of Jennifer’s breathing tube. In the video she looks apprehensive as the doctor starts to undo the tape holding the tube. Then he pulls the tube out of her mouth and a look of shock washes over Jennifer’s face as she inhales. “I felt like I was flying. I thought I was just up there and couldn’t take a deep enough breath and it was incredible,” Jennifer told ABC6.
The couple decided to share Jennifer’s story to encourage people to become organ donors.