Singer Who Had Lung Transplant Performs Emotional Duet With Donor’s Daughter

Routines are made in life, and somewhere down the line, people forget that there is a finish line we must all cross someday. Finding out that either you or someone you deeply care about it sick can result in stress, tension, and anxiety. It is a time when you must pool your resources together and to properly plan for the future. One direction many people take is to place their fate in the hands of God.

The body and the mind are interlinked. So when there is something wrong with one, there tends to be something wrong with the other. The days and months after finding out about a life threatening illness can lead to an internal crisis. No one is truly ready to meet the end of their mortal coil, and even for those who struggle with imminent death, faith and hope are important factors that they simply cannot do without.

Opera singer Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick was simply going in for a routine health checkup when her doctor told her of her life threatening disease. In the summer of 2004, Tillemann-Dick was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, a condition that would eventually lead to heart failure followed by death. Upon being told that her life expectancy was between two to five more years, Tillemann-Dick would break down and cry in the bathroom. There was only way for her to survive, and that is if she underwent a lung transplant.

Any kind of organ transplant is not easy to obtain. Given that the vast majority of people do not sign up to be organised donors, the actual availability of different organs in the market is subject to the death of a registered organ donor. Such people are not easy to come across, and the lines for those waiting to get organ transplants across hospitals in extremely long. It could take years at the least to get a transplant, and even then fate still has cards to play. If the body rejects the organ, then you would be back at square one. Not only must an organ be available, it must also match certain specifications that make it operative in the body of the person it is being transplanted to.

Tillemann-Dick had to wait five years to get a lung transplant. But unfortunately her new lungs were rejected by her body and she had no choice but to find herself back on the list looking for donors. Meanwhile, her health had started to decline even more. Ever since 2008, she found herself becoming more and more ill. Her situation turned worse after the deaths of two people she deeply cared about. Her father, Timber Dick died in a car crash that year and her grandfather, Tom Lantos, passed away after fighting with cancer. The duress of being in pain both physically and emotionally took a serious toll on her.

Tillemann-Dick opened up about her love for Opera and why she loved to sing. She was only five years old when her sister’s best friend took her to a local production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Opera ‘Hansel and Gretel’. It was there that she fell in love with the art form. She had sung in the Church hour since she was three years old, but it was not until she turned thirteen that she began taking formal training in singing. She would attend the Franz Lizst Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary, a one year course that made her feel truly comfortable with her voice.

But by 2004, her symptoms were becoming extremely bad. She would even faint a few times, once while crossing the street. She came out about these experiences in her memoir, ‘The Encore’. She also revealed that finding out that there was truly something wrong with her was cathartic. She knew for a fact that is was not all just in her head, that there were real problems that could now be addressed. Her fate changed in 2012 however, when one Flora Brown passed away. Her lungs would be transplanted to Tillemann-Dick, who finally received her chance at living her life. To celebrate her new lease on life, she would perform a duet with the 24 year old daughter of her Organ Donor, Esperanza Tufani. Tillemann-Dick confessed to ABC News that the plan for a duet performance had been in the making for quite some time. According to Tufani, “It was a pretty surreal feeling, to hear someone sing with my mother’s lungs, it was something I would’ve wanted to do if she was still here.” The two were invited by the clinic where the organ transplant took place at the Cleveland Clinic’s 15th Annual Medical Innovation Summit in Ohio. The two songs performed were originals of Tillemann-Dick, called ‘Simple Grace’ and ‘American Rainbow’. These songs were selected keeping the theme of the celebration in mind.

‘Simple Grace’ beckons the listener to not take life for granted, while ‘American Rainbow’ speaks of the importance of inclusivity. Flora Brown was an immigrant from the Honduras, and thanks to her, Tillemann-Dick is still alive. She wanted to celebrate the cosmopolitan melting of cultures that America is home to, and this second song was selected keeping that in mind. Tillemann-Dick wanted to stress the importance of the strength that can be obtained when everyone came together to fight as one. Her doctor, Dr. Marie Budev, a pulmonologist and medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s ‘Lung Transplant Program’ was also there to witness the event. At the end of the day, Tillemann-Dick can now continue to do what she loves the most, sing. For a woman whose life expectancy has long since been touted, her future is only want she wants to make of it.

Share this story and remind others that God has everything under control!

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