Carrie was looking for life, not love, when she turned to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital lung transplant program. But she found both.
Carrie and her husband, Gary, were both diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as infants. They met through the Barnes-Jewish Hospital mentor program when Carrie was placed on the lung transplant waiting list in March 2004. Gary had a double lung transplant in April 2002.
Carrie, now 28, was an active child who played volleyball and ran track. She started getting upper respiratory infections during her senior year of high school. She often was sick in college, and was hospitalized for the first time with an infection her sophomore year.
By her senior year, infections were becoming more frequent — she had to fax her senior final exams from the hospital and couldn't attend her college graduation.
Unhappy with the care she was receiving at another hospital, Carrie and her family turned to the Barnes-Jewish lung transplant program in April 2003. Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine have one of the pre-eminent lung transplant programs in the world. Carrie says the difference was "night and day."
"Everyone was friendly, and everything was so well run," she says. "Everything you need is at the Center for Advanced Medicine, and it's convenient from the time you pull into the parking garage. I felt like I would be well taken care of. My husband had the same experience."
Carrie's social worker matched Carrie with Gary Gobble through the mentor program. People who have already had a lung transplant meet with patients on the waiting list and offer information and support. "She said she had the perfect mentor for me," Carrie says. "We're both accountants, single, independent, sarcastic and like to joke."
Gary has been healthy since his lung transplant four years ago. "He was very open and honest with me about the transplant process," Carrie says.
Their relationship developed into a friendship, and Gary was with Carrie on Nov. 6, 2004, when she received the call that donor lungs were available.
"We were watching 'Shrek 2,' and when it was over, we started talking about my transplant," Carrie says. "The phone rang at 10:45 p.m., and it was Barnes-Jewish saying they had potential lungs.
"Everything fell into place. My parents, who were supposed to be gone for the night, came home early, right after the phone call," she says. "Every light on the way to the hospital was green."
Carrie arrived at the hospital at midnight and was transplanted at 10:15 a.m. Nov. 7. She went home nine days later.
Three days later, Carrie and Gary began dating. They got engaged on Carrie's birthday. They married Nov. 19, 2005, one year to the day they started dating.
It's been a rough road for Carrie. She's experienced some rejection and resistant infections. She also had heart attacks in March 2005 from all the medication, but her heart is now healthy.
Despite her struggles, Carrie says the transplant was worth it. "It's tough, and sometimes I get down," she says. "But I wouldn't change anything. I got to fall in love and get married. I can watch my niece grow up, and I'm going to be an aunt again."
Carrie has been in touch with her donor family. "He was 19 years old, and his family is happy that his life got to continue on in some way," she says. "A lot of transplant patients say that their donor families feel better that a gift came out of their loved one's death."
Carrie now mentors transplant patients and cystic fibrosis patients at St. Louis Children's Hospital who are transitioning their care to Barnes-Jewish. "I feel that it's really important to share my experiences," she says.
Carrie has a heartfelt message for donor families. "I'm here breathing, enjoying sunrises and sunsets, and being married. None of this would have happened without my donor and his family."