Double Lung Transplant Survivor Wins Gold Medal

Texas high school teacher and tennis coach Genie Kilpatrick had been competitive and athletic all her life. 

"I grew up playing tennis. Tennis was always a passion of mine and it was just my life," Kilpatrick said.

However at age 48, she began to experience shortness of breath that hindered her every activity.

She learned her pulmonary hypertension was caused by a rare lung disease called pulmonary capillary hemangiomatosis, or PCH, which affects the blood vessels of the lungs and makes breathing difficult.

"This lung disease is a condition that puts a lot of strain on the right side of the heart, and then the heart starts failing," said Dr. Fernando Torres, professor of internal medicine, medical director of lung transplantation and director of the pulmonary hypertension program at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Kilpatrick's only option for survival was a double lung transplant. She said while recovery wasn't easy, she was motivated to seize her second chance at life.

She won gold at the Transplant Games of America and then made it onto Team USA for the World Transplant Games in England, where she won the gold medal in tennis. 

"To have someone inside of you, a part of you, it's an amazing feeling because you feel that you want to make them proud," Kilpatrick said. "It's so much better now because it's not just about enjoying the sport. It's about enjoying the sport and saying something! I'm a walking billboard, whether it's wearing a T-shirt that says 'Donate Life,' to pass it on, to do something and give back." 

Now retired from teaching and coaching, Kilpatrick enjoys traveling and helping her wife of 17 years, Sheri, run her tennis products company. She plans to continue competing at the World Transplant Games, already on her calendar for 2021 in Houston.

You can read more of her story here.

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