Breathing in new life: Lung transplant recipient forms support group for other patients

St. Mary's Hospital (Source: 14NEWS)
St. Mary's Hospital (Source: 14NEWS)

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - A brand new support group in Evansville is already helping people who are on the organ transplant list.

It was started by a woman who had first-hand experience with how scary the journey can be.

Mary Ann Zenthoefer was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in 2013.

Doctors told her she had two years to live, if she didn't get herself on the national organ transplant list.

In April of 2014, she was placed on the list.

On May 23rd, she got the call.

A lung transplant was waiting for her at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.

Mary's donor was a man named Brandon, who died in a tragic swimming accident.

Mary still keeps in touch with Brandon's mother, and hopes to meet her one day.

Mary's journey through organ donation inspired her to help others still waiting for a life-saving transplant.

She recently started a new support group for transplant patients at St. Mary's hospital.

The support group provides much needed guidance and advice for patients waiting for an organ.

That's how Mary met Melvin Willman.

Melvin also needs a lung transplant.

The U.S. Army veteran hates being tethered to an oxygen tank.

But it's his source of life right now.

Melvin works out at St. Mary's hospital, trying to get his body as strong as possible.

That's so doctors will place his name on the national transplant list.

Melvin will undergo testing at Duke University in the next week.

"I want to watch my grandchildren grow up."

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