You’re likely to find Beth Miller out snowshoeing or hiking near her home most days. These are not out-of-the-ordinary activities for Squamish residents like her, but Beth is doing them with something remarkable.
She’s breathing through a set of new lungs.
That’s because in 2020 – during our pandemic year – Beth received one of a record-breaking 55 lung transplants in BC.
Beth, a local elementary French Immersion teacher, had been managing the autoimmune disease scleroderma since 2006. By 2010, it started to affect her lungs more, leaving her out of breath much of the time. She gradually gave up many of the outdoor activities she loves so much.
She had to give up teaching in 2016, the same year she was listed for lung transplant.
Beth waited 3.5 years and, though it was a bit isolating at first, she was able to take up tai chi and make new friendships. She recalls, “The hardest part was feeling adrift, without purpose at times, and feeling reluctance to take on any volunteer activities, in case the call for transplant came.”
The call came as she was about to leave for a birthday party she had organized for a friend. “My first reaction was, "Are you kidding? Is this for real?’” With help from her friends and neighbours, she was able to get together what she needed for her hospital stay, and made her way down to VGH, where all lung transplants in BC are performed.
After time in hospital recovering, Beth returned to Squamish and is grateful for her parents who flew from Ontario to be her caregivers.
Beth has great plans for her future. She’s starting with a goal for spring 2021 of hiking the Chief in Squamish. Depending on the COVID-19 situation, she is hoping to go back to teaching in the 2021/22 school year. Next winter, she wants to get back on the mountain to ski again. And longer term – a road trip across Canada and a trip to Portugal.
Beth is grateful to her donor and their family, and for the high-quality care she received through her transplant journey: “After years of struggling for breath, one generous donor and their family made a selfless decision on their absolute worst day, and now I have the gift of healthy lungs. I am eternally grateful to them, and to the incredibly caring transplant team.”