Kerry King breathing easily now

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson


Kerry King takes every breath as a blessing, literally.

"I had six weeks to live," said the double-lung transplant survivor from Hampton. King, 34, had returned from a check-up at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, as she recounted her life-changing experience.

Just 16 months ago, she was placed on a lung transplant donor list of 1,800 Americans, with 20 from Georgia, according to officials with Emory University Hospital.

"I was afraid that I wouldn't get a match, and I was anxious," King recalled. "Here I was, a young woman with very small children, and my lungs were failing me. My condition was so severe, I had maybe six weeks to live."

King received the transplant only a few weeks after being placed on the transplant list. On Jan. 14, 2010, she underwent a double transplant surgery, led by Emory surgeons, Seth Force and Remzi Bag.

"It's a huge blessing," she said. "It goes beyond words. I feel better than I did before I even got sick."

In 2005, King was diagnosed with Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH). PPH is a rare lung disorder characterized by increased pressure in the pulmonary artery, which carries oxygen-poor blood from the lower chamber on the right side of the heart, to the lungs, where it picks up oxygen.

Kerry said leading up to her diagnosis, she fell ill with prolonged nausea, shortness of breath, and loss of appetite. In 2009, Kerry went on 24-hour oxygen.

She said she visited a community-based medical clinic, where she recalled, "My blood pressure was so high they sent me to a local hospital, where I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and an enlarged heart.

"It all happened so fast," she continued. "Before I knew it, I was at Emory, and I realized something was very, very wrong."

King said she was rushed by ambulance to Emory University Hospital, where she was admitted to an intensive care unit and, subsequently, diagnosed with PPH.

"I couldn't even walk up the stairs to the bedroom at night -- my husband carried me," King explained of her aftercare.

She said she has recovered fully, and is an involved stay-at-home mother these days, taking care of her 7-year-old twins, Justin and Jason, and their father, Harry King.

"It's overwhelming to think what I have been through, and how far I have come," she said. "There were times when I felt like I couldn't take another step and ..."

"And now I can't slow her down," interrupted Harry King, her husband of five years.

His wife acknowledged that she still knows nothing about the donor, but, "I would love to, one day, meet their parents."