Doug and Kara Didier are photographed as they posed during a stopover in one of the areas they visited. (Courtesy photo)

Local transplant recipient checks big item off bucket list

VERSAILLES—Kara Didier, of Versailles, said the major item on the bucket list she made in her high school days is complete.

Her and her husband Doug drove out West in a convertible this past week.

“I had the best time of my life!” She said. “We visited family in Montana; tipped a canoe; hiked in the Rockies, if you can call it that; ate amazing food; saw mountain goats; made some interesting friends; saw four double rainbows in a week and a half’s time; saw Mt. Rushmore at night, which was amazing; and so much more. Who knew my shoes being outside would bring rain to Montana? All because of my donor…10 years in nine days.”

She is referring to the as-of-yet-unidentified person whose lung was donated to her 10 years ago in her time of need.

“I knew in high school I wanted to take a trip out West in a convertible,” said the 1996 Arcanum High School graduate. “We bought the convertible last year, not knowing for sure we would go. I had looked in to plane tickets then we got the convertible.”

So, a road trip it would be.

“We had such an amazing time,” said the former Kara Neff, who is a photography buff. “I am so thankful for Doug as he drove the entire way. I felt bad because I don’t know how to drive a stick shift. He was a trooper and I am beyond grateful to have been able to do this trip with him. He is always doing great things for me. He’s a good man. God bless my donor!”

She and husband Doug, a Darke County Sheriff’s deputy and a 1994 Versailles High School graduate, met while cruising Broadway in Greenville in the 1990s. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on Aug. 10, 2021, and are the parents of three children, Austin, 25, the father of their two grandchildren, Brinley and Braxton, and working at Community Insurance Group; Alexa, who will turn 21 next week and working at Osgood State Bank; and Cameron, 19, who works at Crown in New Bremen.

Doug and Kara, who made this trip together without their children, stayed with her cousin, Melissa Neff, while in Montana, but they also visited South Dakota and Wyoming.

It took them two days to get there, having traveled more than halfway the first day and spending 10 to 12 hours on the road the second day. Then, it took three days to come back.

During their venture, Doug liked mountain biking with her cousin’s boyfriend and Kara spent time with her cousin and buying souvenirs.
Kara said the drive itself was “really fun” but they were really excited to get back home. The first thing they did was stop to see their grandchildren, who live a couple of blocks away from them.

“We missed them terribly,” she said.

Kara, who has had very little setbacks since her transplant; however, she gets migraines sometimes because of the medications she is taking.
Does she have any limitations? “I can’t mow grass mulch because of possible contact with fungus.”

Kara put this message on Facebook June 11:

“Besides Austin’s birthday being today…10 years ago, I was listed for lungs! I was told it could be a short wait, or a long wait since My blood type is AB+ and I would need an AB+ donor. Who knew it’d be a short wait at 37 days later?”

Kara, who had never been sick before in her life, received her diagnosis in 2010.

“I started having stomach issues in the summer of 2009. “I had gone to my pcp and she referred me to a gastrointestinal doctor. It didn’t matter what I ate or drank, but I would feel sick to my stomach or throw up, whatever I had eaten. The GI doctor ran all sorts of blood tests, did a colonoscopy, and tried a few different medications to no avail.”

When Kara went back to her pcp in early 2010 and informed the pcp that the GI doctor wasn’t helping and that she was having issues with stiff joints.

“The pain was mostly in my arms, wrists and hands,” she went on. “After looking at some of the blood tests that the GI doctor had done, she found that my RH factor number was really high. I was referred to a rheumatologist. I had wanted to see a rheumatologist that was in Dayton, but his waiting list was like six months out, so I went to one I could get into quicker that was in Muncie.”

It was then that she had to go through more blood tests, and was put on a medication called methotrexate.

“The methotrexate caused me to have shortness of breath and I was just overall feeling miserable,” she said. “I recall getting ready to walk a few blocks to our oldest son’s baseball game, and when opening the door, it felt like an elephant had sat right down on my chest. From that point on, I struggled walking and going very far. I would get extremely out of breath. I was only on methotrexate a very short time (a few weeks) and was taken off of that because of the shortness of breath. I was put on sulfasalazine and the rheumatologist referred me to also see a pulmonologist. After about a week on the new medication, I started breaking out in a bad rash and developed a fever…it was determined that I was allergic to sulfa, so I was taken off of that medication completely and wasn’t put on anything else for the time being until I saw a pulmonologist.”

By early-mid summer of 2010, she had an appointment to see a pulmonologist in Dayton.

“When he first tested my breathing, he said I had asthma,” she said. “I was so confused, because growing up, I had hardly ever been sick and had never had asthma or allergies. The following times I had appointments with the pulmonologist, my breathing kept getting worse. He was also running blood tests, I had all sorts of scans and x-rays and yet he had no clue what was wrong with me. My ‘asthma’ had gone from mild to very severe to my breathing being like I had severe COPD, but I had never smoked, and I didn’t have the Alpha-1 genetic marker. Finally in the late fall of 2010, he told me he thought it was time for me to go to Cleveland Clinic because he just didn’t know what was going on with me.”

Her first appointment at the clinic was Dec. 27, 2010.

“I was in the room with my husband for five minutes when the doctor walked in and asked me if I knew what I had,” Kara noted. “I told her I did not and that is why I am there…to hopefully finally get some answers. She told me I had Bronchiolitis Obliterans, a rare lung disease. Bronchiolitis Obliterans is an inflammatory condition that affects the bronchioles, or the lung’s tiniest airways. So I found out then that I had rheumatoid arthritis and it attacked my lungs instead of my joints. So looking back, I had no clue I had rheumatoid arthritis (typically RA is hereditary and no one in my family has or had it) and I also had no clue that it could attack anything besides the joints. I was told the disease could leave me stable, or I could decline slowly or decline quickly. They tried combinations of medications, but nothing seemed to work for me and I declined at a steady pace. I believe my lung function when I was first diagnosed was around 36 percent. I had gotten RSV at the end of May 2012, and was hospitalized for eight days in Cleveland. I was in the hospital or ER once every three to four months. When I had RSV, I felt like I would not survive another hospital stay. My team agreed to list me once I was rid of the RSV.”

On June 12, 2012, she was officially listed.

“I was told it could be a long wait or a short wait as I have AB+ blood and when it has to deal with lungs,” she said. “The blood type has to match perfectly…so I needed an AB+ donor. AB+ is more rare, so that is why my wait could go either way. June 12 is also our oldest son’s birthday. I was listed on his 15th birthday. My wait was short…37 days to be exact. I got the call on the morning of July 17. I was told that the lungs were high risk…they had been exposed to hepatitis C. So I had the option to accept or decline. I was told if I accept, not to worry about the risk, because they would know how to fix the hep C for me. I said OK, and was told to be in Cleveland by noon. The drive flew by as I called and texted the entire way. Once there, they took me to the CICU to prep me, do blood work, and wait. By 9 that night, I hadn’t really gotten any updates except for the donor hospital was waiting on someone to take the liver. The organs are procured in a certain way, with certain organs going first. So they line up who is taking what before they start the surgery on the donor. At 10, I got a phone call saying there was good and bad news. The bad news was that the lungs were no good. The team had gotten there to recover (never harvest) the lungs and that they were just no good. They looked better on paper. But the good news was that within that time period, another set had become available and they are pristine my doctor said. I was told it was from a young woman within a couple hours’ flight of Cleveland. That is all I know about my donor. My doctor also mentioned that what a miracle this all truly was because to have two sets of AB+ lungs become available within a 24-hour period is truly remarkable and unheard of. I went into surgery around 5 a.m. on July 18, and was finished by noon the same day.”

According to her, “The vent was pulled on July 19 and I took her first breath with my new lungs on July 19, my daughter’s 11th birthday. I was totally out of it, but I vividly recall annoying my nurses by telling them it was her birthday. So they brought the phone in to me and my husband dialed so I could talk to Alexa. She said it was the best birthday present ever. Ten years have passed and I have been able to be here for so many things. I’ve watched all three of my kids graduate. I was there for my oldest son’s marriage. I was here when my first grandchild (and second) was born. I enjoy watching them grow. I was here to watch my daughter play and win two state volleyball tournaments. And last year, Doug and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary…all because someone said yes to being a donor.

Kara said she has written to her donor’s family quite a bit over the past 10 years to express her appreciation and thanks for “this beautiful gift.” However, she has not gotten any response yet.

“I understand how losing their wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend…whatever she was to her family…could be something you just don’t want to talk about and share,” Kara said. “I do welcome communication with them if they ever decide. I want them to know how thankful and how very grateful that I am for her and for them. I want to make her happy in all that I do. My hashtag that I use for posts is AndYetSheLivesOn. I live on because of my donor, and my donor lives on because of me.”

Kara and Doug Didier get ready to head out West in a convertible they purchased last year. It was a dream come true for Kara who can now strike that off of her bucket list. (Courtesy photo)
Kara Didier is in her glory as she had the opportunity to experience travel out West. (Courtesy photo)
Kara Didier checks out the photos on her cellphone that were taken during her trip with husband Doug out West this past week. (Linda Moody photo)
Darke County Now Staff - Linda Moody - Staff Writer

Linda Moody / Staff Writer

I am a Darke County native living in the Ansonia area with my son. I have been in journalism 50+ years and enjoy what I do.

Contact Darke County Now Media Correspondent Linda Moody @ lmoody@darkecountynow.com or 937-337-1955.

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