Phoenix - Early on the morning of Oct. 25, 2016, Robin Ritchie, 67, made her way into St Joseph's Hospital. She was a very sick woman.
Eighteen months earlier, her doctor told her in no uncertain terms, "I think you're one hospital stay with pneumonia, or something like that, away from dying," Ritchie recalled while fighting back tears.
The retired, middle school teacher had been battling emphysema and pulmonary hypertension for years. And now she was told her options were limited, except for one.
"'I think you should have a lung transplant.' Ritchie's doctor advised. And she said, 'OK!'"
She and her husband, Steve, moved to Arizona from Texas, and were put on the wait list at the St. Joseph's-Norton Thoracic Institute. A "wait" that Steve says went by pretty fast.
"We went from a birthday dinner on (October) 24th, to surgery on the 25th at 4 o'clock," he said.
That was a month ago, and at a recent press gathering, one of her surgeons, Ross Bremmer, MD, was proud to announce,
"Our patients have kind of identified themselves by a number ... and they call themselves, No. 1 or No. 17, or No. 156; and so, Robin, you are No. 500," Bremmer said beaming with pride.
A number that makes everyone smile, but makes Robin Ritchie reflect on something that most of us take for granted.
"All of a sudden your breathing room air, and your oxygen level is at 99 percent," Ritchie said. "It's the most exciting thing!" she added.
It's a gift that has breathed new life into Ritchie and made this Thanksgiving something she is truly thankful for.
"I'm particularly appreciative of my donor and my donor's family for such a wonderful gift. Thank you," she said, again welling up with emotion.
According to Dignity Health, St. Joseph's Norton Thoracic Institute is the second ranked lung transplant program in the country; and the No. 1 lung transplant program in the western U.S.
There are more than 2,300 people in Arizona in need of a transplant.
For info on organ donation: http://www.dnaz.org/