Nutritious meals help client breathe easier

Terri Figueredo clearly recalls her darkest hour. It was bedtime on April 28, 2016. Terri knew she was dying—and wondered how long she could continue to wait for the inevitable.

In 2012, the 64-year-old Colorado Springs resident had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that was causing her lungs to scar over, depriving her body and brain of oxygen. At first, Terri, an athletic, independent woman working as a chef, didn’t have symptoms. But within a couple of years, she was experiencing shortness of breath and had to give up hiking with her beloved dog, Jasmine. In 2015, she also said goodbye to her job; she’d become dependent on oxygen and couldn’t be around open flames in the kitchen.

Terri’s health deteriorated quickly. “I couldn’t walk across the room without having to sit and catch my breath,” she says. “The lack of oxygen was affecting my thought processes, and I was losing a lot of weight. The act of eating wore me out because it was so difficult to eat and breathe at the same time. I was skin and bones.”

When Terri’s doctor advised her that she needed a double lung transplant and described the surgery and aftercare involved, including taking a lifelong cocktail of medications, she hesitated. But with her sister’s encouragement, Terri went through a battery of tests and was fast-tracked for a transplant.

While waiting for a donor whose lungs would match her petite size and blood type, Terri attended pulmonary rehab, where a therapist recommended Project Angel Heart meals to help Terri gain weight. Although it was difficult for Terri to ask for help, she soon began receiving bags containing a week’s worth of nutritious frozen meals, as well as breakfast bags with cereal and milk, hard-boiled eggs, and bread. Says Terri, “The meals looked appetizing and tasted good, and there was always a protein, vegetable, and carb.”

Back to April 28, when Terri went to bed thinking the blackest of thoughts: As she turned out the light, the phone rang. It was her doctor, telling her they’d found a potential donor. Says Terri, “Six hours later, I had two new lungs. Even in the ICU with a tube down my throat, I knew I was breathing better.”

Terri received meals from Project Angel Heart for several months after she was discharged. “The food was a huge help with my nutrition and getting my strength and weight back. And receiving the meals free of charge was wonderful. I haven’t worked since I lost my job, and I have very few resources, but with Project Angel Heart, there was no judgment; they made it easy, not embarrassing.”

Today, Terri is hiking with Jasmine and teaching pulmonary rehab classes, along with decorating meal bags for Project Angel Heart and volunteering with Donor Alliance. She says, “I have a new outlook on life because of the kindness of others. I want to devote myself to getting well and helping other people. Everyone deserves love and support with whatever they’re going through.”

You can send a message of love and support to clients like Terri when you make a donation to Project Angel Heart.

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