"I knew this was the only way to stay alive."

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Patient Stories

"I knew this was the only way to stay alive."

Debra Aparicio, Lung Transplant Recipient, 2004

Debra Aparicio, Lung Transplant Recipient, 2004As an active duty army nurse in Germany, Debra Aparicio never thought she would be fighting for air. In the summer of 2002, she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and needed a lung transplant.

Determined to beat the odds, she began researching transplant centers across the world.  She quickly realized University Transplant Center was the best choice. She requested a transfer to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio. 

Debra's health continued to get worse, forcing her to retire from the military in 2003. Shortly after, she was placed on an oxygen tank 24 hours a day.

"I saw myself getting worse," Debra said. "I knew this was the only way to stay alive."

On December 22, 2004, Debra received a phone call that changed her life. Kevin, a teenager from San Antonio, lost his life but his parents made a life-giving decision. Debra received Kevin's lung.

Five days later she was already breathing easier and recovering at home.

Grateful to her organ donor, Debra shared her story with her Colonel at BAMC. He was so touched that he decided to donate a tree in Kevin's honor, helping to keep his memory alive. Debra wrote the Kevin's mother to tell her about the tree, and the two families have been in contact ever since.

"We talk and have lunch regularly," Debra said. "I always tell her when I go out of town. I tell her I’m taking her son with me."