Lifelong singer regains voice through lung transplant

A Liberty Hill grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of two is "singing" her medical team's praises after a life-saving lung transplant.

After years of medical problems including Multiple Sclerosis and and two brain tumors, retired Austin-Travis County dispatcher JoAnn Crum was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease.

"I remember Dr. [Randall] Rosenblatt asking me, he said, ‘Well, tell me what you think?’ And I told him, I said, ‘I don't think I'm gonna be here Christmas.’ And I truly felt that. And I'm not afraid of dying. It’s what I was afraid of leaving behind." said Crum.

Crum grew up singing in church and school. She even sang in a barbershop quartet. Eventually lung disease robbed her of her voice. "Without music, it's just like I was just shriveling up, really." she said.

In November 2020 Crum was placed on a transplant list. Four days later she received a new lung at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

When Crum was no longer intubated her doctor told her to take a "deep breath." "That was emotional because it had been so long since I had been able to [take a deep breath.] And until you can't, you don't know what you're missing." She added, "It was like nothing I've ever experienced. It was like I could walk on air, like I was suddenly Superwoman."

Crum gets emotional when she thinks of the medical team that helped save her life.  

"When you really bring somebody, quote, back to life or bring them a life that they want to live with, it really makes all of our jobs worthwhile." said Dr. Randall Rosenblatt, chief of pulmonary critical care.

Crum is approaching her one-year-transplant anniversary. She sings frequently. "It’s like when I’m singing my soul opens up... and whatever’s in there pours out." she explained.  

She does not know who her donor is, and acknowledges she may never know. "Everyday I try to find a reason to honor whoever gave me this lung. This lung is what I fight for every day. And I'm very protective of it." she said. "Just knowing that somebody out there cared enough to at least donate to a faceless person, and not only that, I wasn't just a faceless person. I was a 65-year-old woman, almost 66, with two brain tumors and Multiple Sclerosis and Pulmonary Fibrosis… but they chose to gamble on me."

Crum hopes her story will encourage others to consider organ donation.

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