Almost exactly a year ago, doctors told Evin Evans, a 60-year-old goat farmer from Anderson, she would face certain death unless she received a lung transplant.
The award-winning cheese maker with a complex medical history became listed as a transplant candidate at Emory University in Atlanta and at the Medical University of South Carolina.
MUSC called first.
On March 9, Evans became the first patient to receive new lungs through MUSC's reinstated lung-transplant program, operating for the first time since 1997 when its primary surgeon left.
Evans received a call that lungs were available in Charleston on March 9, just 32 days after she officially was placed on the waiting list. She was in surgery later that day.
"I felt like a dying person ... now I feel liberated," Evans said after her 30-minute rehabilitation session Monday at MUSC. "I'm able to take a deep breath without feeling like I'm breathing through a rock stuck in my mouth."
Wearing a sweatshirt from her own farm that read "Grade A Goat Dairy," the farmer walked on a treadmill and performed other light exercises.
The transplant was a success, and Evans emerged from the hospital in nine days -- faster than most patients.
Despite her good prognosis, Evans isn't completely happy.
After completing her exercises, she turned wistful to think of the 35 acres and three goats she built into a dairy with more than 750 animals and a dozen employees who make cheese, soap, fudge and yogurt that is distributed across the country.
Dr. Timothy Whelan, who treated Evans, thinks the pulmonary fibrosis that led to her chronic lung scarring stems from working with the goats.
Goat protein, either from the skin or wool, likely is the irritant that caused Evans' lungs to fail, Whelan said. She probably needs to keep away from the goats to prevent irritation or failure in her new lungs, he said.
After 31 years at Split Creek Farm, Evans moved away when her health precipitously deteriorated about a year ago, switching from hands-on tasks like caring for the goats to the administrative tasks of running a business. But her heart remains in Anderson with the goats.
She isn't sure what will happen with the farm but is certain things will not be the same.
"I'm not going to blow this," she said of her transplant. "It's not going to be life like I knew it, but it's going to be life."
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