Outer Banks woman to undergo third lung transplant; community shows support

Published 4:57 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Tricia Lawrenson is nothing short of a warrior. Battling cystic fibrosis, undergoing two lung transplants –  soon to be a third – and giving birth to a “miracle baby,” Tricia has served as a beacon of hope for all those who have heard her story, along with her husband Nathan and two children, Hunter and Gwyneth.

Nathan Lawrenson has tracked his wife’s health history and impactful legacy through a blog that he kept up with through Tricia’s first two lung transplants at Duke Hospital. He has gained over one million followers through the blog. “Lots of people out there know her story,” Nathan said.

In 2008, Tricia gave birth to the couple’s now 12-year-old daughter Gwyneth. Gwyneth was only 24 weeks into gestation when the emergency C-section occurred. She and Tricia had only a 50% chance of survival.

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Nathan, Gwyneth, Hunter and Tricia Lawrenson. Courtesy Nathan Lawrenson

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That same year, Tricia received her first set of new, healthy lungs. These lungs would serve her well for a few years. However, in 2012, her health began to decline once again.

In 2012, Tricia was diagnosed with grade 2 acute and chronic rejection, which then led her to become a candidate for a second lung transplant. “Very near death,” as Nathan described in his blog. Tricia received another double-lung transplant in 2013.

Six years later, in 2019 Tricia’s lungs took a toll on her once again. The doctors were not optimistic about a third transplant back in 2013, but Duke has begun to perform third transplants thanks to innovative medical and surgical advancements. Tricia has been undergoing the evaluation process for a third surgery. If she does have a third transplant, she will be the thirteenth person in the United States to do so.

Nathan reported that things have been moving along quickly for this third transplant. About a month ago, the family needed to raise $50,000 for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Nathan said their situation for this transplant is very different from the other two.

“Tricia doesn’t have the same insurance . . . my job situation has changed,” Nathan said. Nathan is now self-employed and has spent most of his time recently taking care of Tricia, now that her health has worsened, and taking care of their two children.

Thankfully, Nathan and Tricia have received an outpouring of love and support from the Outer Banks community. Nathan said that practically every night, a neighbor or friend has dropped off dinner for the family. “Having dinner provided has been a huge help,” he said. As of press time, the family has already raised over $33,000 through a GoFundMe page.

Nathan described himself as an introvert, finding it very difficult to ask others for help. However, he said Tricia is the complete opposite. “She’s an extrovert; everyone she meets tends to remember her.”

Over the years, Tricia and Nathan have met hundreds of people, some with similar stories. One couple, Ashley and Josh Olvey, have a young daughter with cystic fibrosis. Understanding the tough circumstances, the Olveys organized two fundraisers that took place Valentine’s weekend to raise money for Tricia’s surgeries.

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Tricia and Nathan Lawrenson waving to their friends and family as they head out to Durham. Courtesy Linda Page

Valentine’s Day night, there was a babysitting service provided at Nags Head Church. Parents signed up to have their children stay with caretakers while they went out for a couple of hours to share a meal together. The Olveys asked in return for donations of whatever families could give to go towards Tricia’s medical expenses.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, the Olveys hosted a “For Love and Lungs” event, which included food vendors, raffles and a silent auction with all proceeds going to the Lawrenson family. Local restaurants donated gift certificates for the raffles and Nags Head Church hosted the event.

To close out the weekend, Rebecca Meyers organized a surprised send-off for Tricia and Nathan. On Sunday, Feb. 16, the couple left for Durham; over the course of the next few months, Tricia will receive physical therapy treatments and prepare her body for a third surgery.

Friends, family, neighbors and supporters from all around the Outer Banks community lined the sides of W. Landing Drive in Kill Devil Hills. They made posters, brought balloons and flowers and waited for Tricia and Nathan to hit the road.

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Friends, family, neighbors and members of the Outer Banks community came out on Sun., Feb. 16 to surprise Tricia Lawrenson with a heartfelt send-off. Danielle Puleo photo

As the couple made their way down W. Landing Drive, everyone waved and gave their well wishes to Tricia, who later posted a video to Facebook thanking everyone for their huge acts of kindness.

“This community means so much to me,” Tricia started, “and just the support you all have had for our family . . . that means more than words can say.”

To make a donation to the Lawrenson family, visit www.gofundme.com and search “65Roses4PattySue.”

Nathan and Tricia arrived in Durham on Sunday night, February 16. They stayed with Tricia’s cousin and moved into their apartment February 19.
In a Facebook post, Nathan said, “We do not need anything for the apartment at this point. There is an organization that works with Duke to find and furnish apartments like this one for patients.”
Nathan asked that anyone who made and brought signs send them to the couple so that they can decorate their apartment in Durham. He added, “If you haven’t already, you can drop them off in the small front foyer at Nags Head Church. We have a few people coming to visit the next week and they can bring them to us.”

To view the drone footage that KDH Mayor Ben Sproul captured, CLICK HERE. 

To watch Tricia’s reaction to her surprise sendoff from the car, CLICK HERE. 

READ ABOUT MORE COMMUNITY NEWS AND EVENTS HERE.