Skip to Content

Woman Receives Vital 3rd Double Lung Transplant at Duke Hospital

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Duke Hospital recently performed a life-saving surgery that has given a young woman, Taylor Stephenson, a renewed lease on life she feared she might not have. At the age of 26, she underwent her third double lung transplant.

For Stephenson, the simple act of playing fetch with her dog holds immense significance. It symbolizes health, hope, and the precious gift of life.

Not too long ago, she was reliant on an oxygen tank, grappling with each breath.

“The sensation is akin to suffocation, and it’s perhaps the most frightening feeling,” she recollected. “Waking up multiple times at night, gasping for air.”

Stephenson, born with cystic fibrosis, received her initial double lung transplant during her teenage years. However, after some time, her body began rejecting the new lungs. Despite being grateful for the second transplant she received, she had firmly declared it would be her last.

“I always thought that would be the final one,” she remarked.

While things seemed to be going well initially, the devastating news of rejection resurfaced last year.

“At 25, I didn’t want to contemplate death. I still had a fighting spirit within me,” Stephenson reflected. Initially unaware that a third transplant was a possibility, she expressed, “I never even considered it as an option.”

Although third lung transplants are uncommon, Duke Hospital has emerged as a leader in this field within the United States.

“There have been approximately 15 such procedures in the country, and we have carried out 13 of them,” elucidated Dr. John Reynolds, the medical director of Duke’s esteemed Lung Transplant Program. “Our patients come from not only this region but from across the nation and even globally.”

Stephenson was overwhelmed with emotion upon discovering that Duke would be conducting her third double lung transplant, especially since her initial two transplants were performed at different medical facilities. “It felt like another shot at life,” she expressed.

Having temporarily relocated from Oklahoma to Durham for the surgery and subsequent recovery, Stephenson, while missing her home, regards her medical team as a second family. She attributes her resilience to them and her unwavering faith.

“It’s truly empowering to have these individuals in your corner, every single one of them,” she acknowledged.

Approximately a month post-transplant, Dr. Reynolds lauds Stephenson’s remarkable progress, noting her improved breathing and increasing vitality each day.

Expressing deep gratitude, Stephenson hopes the donor’s family recognizes the profound appreciation she holds for their gift. “I want them to understand how deeply I will cherish these lungs,” she affirmed.

While she aspires to conquer mountains in the future, her immediate plans involve cherished moments with her dog, Millie.

“We’re going to enjoy countless walks together,” she shared with a smile.

Dr. Reynolds anticipates that Stephenson’s journey will serve as an inspiration to other patients. Stephenson echoes this sentiment, stating, “I want others to realize that a third transplant is a viable option. Your life doesn’t have to reach a premature conclusion.”

During her hospital stay, Stephenson completed her associate’s degree in psychology and contemplates a potential career in pharmacy down the road.

Her ultimate goal is to support fellow transplant recipients and individuals battling cystic fibrosis.

“I believe I can offer solace at the very least,” she affirmed. “The road ahead may not always be easy, but there will always be a glimmer of hope.”