Growing up with a life-limiting illness did not stop 30-year-old Ali from dreaming big. Becoming a mother was one aspiration that Ali held close to her heart. However, her journey to motherhood did not come easily.
Born with cystic fibrosis meant a childhood and adolescence filled with hospital stays, IV therapy and lung infections. At just ten years old, Ali was confronted with the gravity of her condition when her older sister Joanie died from the same disease. “The horrific realities of cystic fibrosis came crashing down on me and my family when my 12-year-old sister passed away,” she recalls. “This loss will always be a part of me.”
The fragility of life became abundantly clear to Ali in her teen years when her own lung function began to plummet. Wheelchair bound, each day was filled with five hours of intensive lung physiotherapy and very little time for much else. She had to drop most of her high school classes and stop riding horses, leaving Ali at a crossroads, “I felt like I was not able to be myself anymore. I had to make the decision whether to be put on the list for a double lung transplant.”
Even as a teenager the implications of this decision weighed heavily on Ali. She feared that a lung transplant would inadvertently affect her ability to become a mom. What she learned was even more eye-opening, “My doctors told me that I wouldn’t live to an age where I could actually have children if I didn’t go on the waitlist. The reality that I was not going to live without a transplant was too huge for me to conceptualize.”
After an arduous wait, Ali finally received a double lung transplant at 19 years old. From transplant surgery to life post-transplant, Ali compares her journey to that of a roller coaster, both emotionally and physically. But one thing is very clear, transplant was lifesaving and allowed Ali to pursue a life she only ever dreamed of, including motherhood.
That part of Ali’s journey hasn’t been easy either. She was unable to carry a child herself because the stress on her body would be too dangerous for her.
Not one to be easily defeated, Ali and her husband Martin explored other options, settling on surrogacy. Finally, in October 2021, the couple welcomed their daughter, Maeva. Having her dream fulfilled was even more amazing than Ali imagined, “I am so incredibly in love with Maeva. I am so lucky to have her in my life. She is my whole world. I didn’t think that the gratitude that I have for the woman who donated her lungs to me could possibly increase, but being able to hold my little girl in my arms has made me even more grateful.”
While Maeva is Ali’s greatest accomplishment, she has also been able to reach many other goals because of transplant. “I was able to get a puppy, marry my incredible partner, Martin, whom I started dating when I was 16 years old, get back to riding horses and even become a horseback riding instructor,” shared Ali. “All these things have been absolutely incredible.”
A decade post-transplant, Ali’s mind is never far from her donor and their family. She pledges to make the most of her second chance and has made herself a promise, “I live for myself, for my sister, and for the woman who gave me a second life. My little girl will grow up knowing all about what her Mommy went through to have her, and she will know that it was all worth it.”
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