At age 26, when Carrie Chown should have been carefree and excited about her future, instead she was in a hospital room at UC San Francisco waiting for a double lung transplant. Her health was failing due to a heart/lung disease, Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, which she had been battling for six years, four of which she had spent waiting on the transplant list. Her doctors feared she would not receive lungs in time, so in the hospital room, her and her mom began planning a funeral. Emotional visits with friends and family members turned into tearful goodbyes. She finally accepted that she was too exhausted to keep going and prayed that she could let go.
Then on December 29, 2003, Carrie received a gift of life. A 16-year-old boy from the San Francisco Bay Area, Joel Hanson, had suddenly passed away and as a donor, he not only was going to save her, but four others. A friend she had made while they were hospitalized, Matt Callison, was going to receive Joel’s heart, while Carrie received his lungs. Thanks to the selfless gift given by Joel and his family, she and Matt were now planning their futures.
The road to recovery has had its ups and downs but her health remains stable, nine years post-transplant. In 2008, in a beautiful ceremony near Lake Tahoe, she got married. Carrie and her husband Zach have created a wonderful life together full of everything they had ever hoped for, except for one missing piece of a family, a child. She had known since her diagnosis that she would be unable to have children, but they both desperately want to be parents and have now started planning a family using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Unfortunately, an ultrasound and lab work quickly confirmed that most of her eggs had been destroyed due to the trauma her body had endured and the long-term effects of her many medications. This news was devastating, but they decided to move forward with an egg donor and a gestational carrier, which would require not only the generosity of two other women, but also a great deal of money; approximately $80,000. Looking at this huge financial hurdle their first thought was to give up, but in light of the miracle Carrie already experienced, a family’s willingness to give her the gift of life, how could she doubt that this too was possible?
So here she is, at the beginning of what she can only hope is one of the most rewarding, if not challenging journeys that a woman can face – motherhood. I hope that in telling her story, we all can raise awareness about her cause. After all, it really does take a village to bring a child into this world.
A funding program has been set up at Baby Chown to help Carrie and Zach offset the costs of the IVF process. At the website you can also see more about her transplant odyssey in newspaper articles and videos, as will as find additional information and resources.