Third double lung transplant surgery a success for Tricia Lawrenson

Published 7:17 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2020

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Tricia Lawrenson, an Outer Banks local that has left a big impact on her community, has successfully undergone her third double lung transplant surgery.

Late Sunday night, April 26, Tricia and her husband Nathan were sitting in their Durham apartment when a call came through asking Tricia to quickly come to the hospital. A donor had become available.

Nathan told The Coastland Times that he drove Tricia over to the emergency room entrance of Duke University Hospital, met staff at the door and said goodbye to his wife. “I got her out of the car knowing that if the surgery went forward, it would be the last time I would see her for a few weeks or possibly a lot longer,” Nathan said.

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Nathan and Tricia arrived in Durham over two months ago to begin physical therapy treatments, which helped build Tricia’s endurance and strengthen her muscles so that her body would be ready for surgery.

With COVID-19, Nathan said there was a chance Duke could have shut down their transplant program, as others around the country have. But they stayed open. “We’re very thankful,” Nathan commented.

The gym that Tricia would use for therapy had to make adjustments for the sake of safety. Instead of group lessons, Tricia would have one-on-one therapy sessions.


Tricia Lawrenson. Courtesy For Love & Lungs: Tricia Lawrenson’s Journey to a Third Lung Transplant

In the time since arrival, Nathan said Tricia gained fifteen pounds and her breathing extraordinarily improved. From running out of breath halfway up their apartment stairs, Tricia was able to walk up and down stairs easily by the time her surgery came.

Her appetite improved and her surgeon, Dr. John Haney, remarked how healthy Tricia looked going into her lung transplant.

Tricia had been on the waitlist for 53 days before the Sunday night call came, three times longer than the average patient at Duke. Interestingly enough, the night the transplant coordinator called, there were two donors found.

The first, the one that the coordinator had originally called about, turned out to not be viable for Tricia. Nathan said that thankfully, there was a second donor that was compatible.

Nathan explained that the staff had said the second donor was “high risk,” meaning that they could have had a known history of drugs, had tattoos, had been in contact with someone who contracted COVID-19 or something else entirely.

In the same regard, the donor was a young adult, with healthy lungs that showed no major signs of damage or scar tissue. Everything checked out and they were a go for Tricia.

Twenty-four hours after arriving at the hospital to receive her new lungs, Tricia went into surgery. Nathan said it was around 9 p.m. on Monday night, April 27 that he had a group FaceTime call with Tricia and their children to say a prayer before surgery began.


Tricia Lawrenson. Courtesy For Love & Lungs: Tricia Lawrenson’s Journey to a Third Lung Transplant

Around 6:30 a.m. the following morning, Nathan received a call from Haney to discuss the progress with Tricia’s surgery. “It [the surgery] took longer because it’s Tricia’s third transplant and there’s a lot of scar tissue,” Nathan explained.

Overall, Haney reported that there were no major complications and the surgery went well. The surgery took approximately eleven hours from start to finish.

From here, it’s another waiting game. Nathan said Tricia is in the intensive care unit and will be monitored closely for the next twenty-four hours. If things go well, by the evening of April 29 Tricia should be off her ventilator and breathing on her own.

In terms of being discharged from the hospital, Nathan said it will be a while. “If everything goes as smoothly as it can, that will be two weeks from today,” he reported on April 28.

To be discharged, Tricia will need to be off her ventilator, have her eight to ten chest tubes removed, eat on her own and walk one mile on her own.

From there, Tricia will return to the apartment with Nathan and continue physical therapy until she is strong enough to return back home to the Outer Banks.

Her support group has constantly shared kind and hope-filled messages through Facebook and the community continues to promote outreach programs in order to encourage the Lawrenson family.

For more information and to keep up with Tricia’s journey, visit the For Love & Lungs: Tricia Lawrenson’s Journey to a Third Lung Transplant Facebook page.



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