Grateful for a Double Gift
At the age of 12, Bethany Clack of Bellbrook, Ohio, began to feel tired at recess. Extremely tired.
Bethany couldn’t keep up with her classmates, who did not struggle to breathe as she did.
After her parents, Ed and Amy Clack, in October 2013 took her to a doctor’s appointment, Bethany received a diagnosis for her ongoing fatigue: idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH). The rare, dangerous, and progressive disease landed her in the cardiac intensive care unit at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) for the next two months. Even after being discharged, Bethany’s health continued declining.
Beyond her breathing difficulties, Bethany wondered how much longer she had to live.
“My life looked very bleak,” she remembers. “I didn’t think I had a future.”
She received a referral to Don Hayes, medical director of the lung transplant program at CCHMC.
“Bethany’s IPAH would have continued to progress to the point of death, if it was not for lung transplantation,” Hayes says.
Ed and Amy battled uncertainty.
“IPAH is a chronic disease that leads to respiratory failure and death,” says Ed, now 48. “We began a journey that would be long and difficult, with months living in the hospital and many sleepless nights caring for a child who was such a cheerful blessing. Bethany’s spirit and strength blessed my wife and me in so many ways.”
The Clacks met with the lung transplant team and discussed options. Bethany chose to be put on the lung transplant wait list in August 2015. Two weeks later, on Sept. 12, the Clacks learned that a pair of lungs had become available for transplant because of the death of 15-year-old Micah Pippen of Arkansas.
The 10-hour operation is intricate, specialized, and risky.
“Transplant surgeries are extremely touchy,” says Amy, 45. “Doctors are basically knitting a human being back together and hoping she lives.”
Hayes has been pleased with the prognosis since the transplant seven years ago.
“Bethany has thrived and lived a normal life,” Hayes says. “Although lung transplant is not curative with its own limitations and complications, this surgical treatment option has provided Bethany's family with more time with this special young lady.”
The process has strengthened Bethany’s trust in the Lord.
“I do not think that I would have been able to do all of this without my faith,” Bethany says. “My faith eases my mind and helps me sleep at night, knowing God is there.”
Bethany is grateful not only for God, but also the medical teams, her friends, and especially her family, which includes 18-year-old sister Abigail and 8-year-old brother Caleb.
“My family was my biggest support,” she says. “They made sure I was going to be OK. The church supported my family by making sure everything was provided for them while they focused on me.”
Amy remembers all the prayers prayed by so many people at the church they attend in Dayton, Ohio. She serves as office administrator at Kettering Assembly of God. Amy is grateful that Bethany had new lungs within two weeks of being placed on the transplant list.
“Months of rehabilitation, plus a lifetime of medications and care, allow Bethany to be a blessing to many,” Amy says. She notes that Bethany nearly died during her initial hospitalization due to pulmonary hypertension.
Bethany is appreciative of the organ donation she received through Donate Life America. At 20, she is a strong advocate for the care and health of those facing chronic illness or medical issues.
“I want people to understand that organ donations are important,” says Bethany, who is an honor student at the Modern College of Design in Kettering. “If it weren’t for my organ donor, I wouldn’t be here today. I am a transplant survivor — and a survivor of pulmonary hypertension.”
While the Clacks view every day of life for Bethany is a gift from God, she is experiencing full health and quality of life.
Ed, who formerly served as youth pastor at Evangel Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida, is now a doctor of osteopathic medicine at Shiloh Family Medicine in Dayton.