New lungs, new life: Viral video of woman’s first breath after lung transplant

ROCHESTER, MN (KIMT/CNN) — A video that documents a powerful post-surgery moment at Mayo Clinic has gone viral. It shows Jennifer Jones taking her first unobstructed breath and has been viewed more than 30 million times.

Jennifer’s fiancé, Rob Ronnenberg, captured the video and posted it to YouTube following her surgery last October. The Byron couple has no idea why more than four months later, the video is getting so much attention online.

Regardless, the timing couldn’t have been better because Wednesday is National Donor Day, a day to honor those who give the gift of life and make moments like this possible.

“For so long I have not been able to breathe like that,” says Jennifer, who admits there’s a lot she doesn’t recall after her lung transplant surgery.

What she does remember is everything about her first breath with her new lungs.

“At first I was scared and then it was like, ‘oh, my goodness, I can breathe! I can still breathe and I’m still taking in all this air,’ and it was overwhelming. It was incredible,” she explains.

Eleven years ago, Jennifer was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. Over the years her lung function continued to decline, making even the simplest of tasks very difficult. In June of last year, she started tests to see if she would be a candidate for transplant. By the time she found a match in October, her lung function was down to just 10.8 percent. Today, she’s able to live a normal  life with 93 percent lung function, all thanks to an anonymous person who made the decision to become a donor. On this National Donor Day, she has a message for the donor family.

“I wouldn’t be here today without them. It’s not about me, it’s about them and their legacy lives on because I get to live it now and that’s a special thing that I am so proud of, and I take these lungs and take this gift as like a child almost, that I’ll protect with all my life. Their legacy, but my miracle.”

While Jennifer doesn’t know if her donor’s family has seen the video, she and Rob have been contacted by many donor families who have. One woman who recently reached out told the couple she found comfort in watching it.

“She lost a nephew,” Rob explains. “She said, ‘you know, we got the card from the family that received the organs and that was nice, but nothing moved me or gave me that sense of closure and really what it means to be an organ donor and recipient like watching this video and seeing her face and knowing that she gets to live and seeing that impact.’ That’s what this is all about.”

Jennifer wanted to see how she recovered after the surgery before attempting to contact her donor’s family. She’s happy to report she’s doing very well and plans to write them a letter soon.

To celebrate National Donor Day, Jennifer and Rob encourage people to register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor. For more information on becoming a donor click here.


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