Imagine going through a double lung transplant, then years later, having to do it all over again. That's the reality for an Inman mother who will undergo a second double lung transplant after contracting pneumonia from feral cats.
Shannon Zimmerman now has to wear masks to protect herself from harmful bacteria in the air. In 1999, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, which forced her to undergo a double lung transplant in 2002. Until 2010, everything went well. Then, her husband Don fell suddenly ill.
"I went into what they call stress rejection," said Zimmerman. Rejection of the lung transplant is possible, but not common, especially years after the surgery.
It was not until she and her son took in two feral kittens, that things got worse.
"My son and I, we had taken in some feral kittens, and unbeknownst to me, I did not know that cats carried pneumonia," said Zimmerman. She contracted the pneumonia, which worsened the condition of her lungs. Doctors earlier this year recommended a second double lung transplant. She said if she had known what she was going to go through, she would have never taken in the kittens.
Veterinarians said cats, dogs and other animals can cause illnesses like pneumonia in humans, especially in people whose immune systems are compromised.
Zimmerman is on the waiting list for a second double lung transplant. According to United Network for Organ Sharing, there are currently three people on the waiting list in South Carolina, and only 41 nationwide. Still, coupled with the double lung transplant, Zimmerman said she will also need a kidney transplant after contracting diabetes through all her health woes.
"It was pretty difficult to find out I was going to have to have another lung transplant," she said. "I cried. Of course, I was mad. But, you know, I'm choosing to fight," she said, adding she has dreams of seeing her son Taylor, 24, get married and have children one day.
Family and friends have been instrumental in her recovery, she said. Right now, donations are being accepted on Zimmerman's website to help cover medical costs.
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