Kelly Draganov

Kelly Draganov

Double Lung Recipient

Having reached end-stage Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 43, Kelly was in desperate need of a life-saving double lung transplant. After being turned away by three centers and refusing to take “no” for an answer, she was finally accepted at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Kelly Draganov, double lung recipient, smiling with husband and daughter.
With every breath, I am grateful to my donor and her family for the ultimate gift of life.

I was medevaced from North Carolina while sedated and on a ventilator to Galveston. I woke up five surgeries, four weeks, and two new lungs later. As a result of the medication I needed, I was deaf. Including a lengthy recovery time, I was away from my home and family in Charleston for the better part of a year. Every single minute was worth it to be able to breathe easy and enjoy the life I have today!

Perhaps the most remarkable part of my story is the powerful network of support my family and I had.

My husband Kyle posted daily updates to our Facebook group, which had over 800 members from around the world, all sending words of encouragement. Family, friends, and strangers alike provided meals, child and pet care, house cleaning, yard upkeep, plane tickets for my daughter Bella to visit me in TX, and donations for transplant-related costs. One friend even organized a blood drive in my honor, which was great because I’d received over 70 units. Best of all, most of these people are now registered organ donors who continue to spread the word about the importance of organ donation.

When I was in rehab after the transplant, my doctor recommended that I find an “eccentric” form of exercise so I wouldn’t get bored. I mentioned that I wanted to try aerial dance but didn’t know if that was possible, especially with my hearing loss. Well, I’ve now been taking aerial classes for over four years and love it! I went from learning how to walk again to learning how to fly!

And though my transplant experience was by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life, the rewards are countless. In the seven years since my transplant, I have thrived.

I believe I have a responsibility to honor my donor’s memory and steward the gift I’ve been given by living life fully with dignity, compassion, and a grateful heart. I welcome opportunities to pay forward the kindness shown to my family and the generosity of my donor and her family.

I also hope that volunteers know that they are an integral part of a community of people with unique and compelling stories from both sides of the organ donation process, all working towards a common goal. I want to continue to contribute to the critical work that is being done in any capacity I’m needed!