TAMPA, Fla., Sept. 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- For years, Patricia McDaris struggled with fibrotic lung disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It reached a point where she couldn't catch her breath long enough to walk to the bathroom in her small home in Perry, Fla., without stopping for a break. She needed a lung transplant.
McDaris, 64, was put on the transplant waiting list. In February, she was hospitalized at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville with extreme dyspnea, or shortness of breath. The severity of her condition prompted doctors to conclude she wouldn't survive a transplant. She was taken off the list.
At any given moment, more than 120,000 Americans are waiting on a life-saving organ. On average, 22 people die every day waiting for a transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit that manages the nation's organ transplant system. In Florida alone, there are more than 5,600 people on an organ waiting list.
McDaris has health coverage through Staywell Heath Plan, a WellCare (NYSE: WCG) health plan dedicated to serving Medicaid members in Florida. Her Staywell care manager, Sandra Sharby, kept in close contact with McDaris throughout her hospital stay and encouraged her not to lose hope.
"She [Sandra] listened to me ̶ you don't get many insurances that do that," McDaris said. "She doesn't know how much it helps."
In March, McDaris was still in the hospital and continued to require high-flow oxygen and nebulization to breathe, but she had improved enough to be re-listed for transplant. A donor was found and she was scheduled for surgery.
The morning of her transplant, however, her lungs stopped working, and she was placed on a breathing machine. For several days, no one knew if she would survive. Despite the odds, she pulled through again.
On April 7, six days after the original surgery was scheduled, McDaris was able to get her new lungs.
In recognition of Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month, McDaris is sharing her story to encourage others struggling with lung disease or waiting on a transplant to stay positive.
"It's a miracle; it really is," said McDaris, who is recovering near Shands, where doctors can monitor her closely, and she can do physical therapy to get her strength back.
She couldn't walk before. Now she can ride a stationary bike for an hour. She is enjoying long walks, shopping, cooking and "just doing for myself," she said.
"I'm still amazed at how brilliant the doctors are and my insurance, the hospital, the hotel, my son, all the people I have come into contact with. I pray daily for you guys, because without you guys, I would not be here today. That's the only way to say it."
"Helping people like Patricia is why I love coming to work every day," said Sharby, one of the many people at WellCare involved in McDaris' care. "It's so gratifying to get to the happy ending."
As of June 30, 2016, WellCare serves approximately 773,000 Medicaid members, 60,000 Florida Healthy Kids members, 92,000 Medicare Advantage members, and 29,000 Medicare Prescription Drug Plan members in Florida.
About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs. The company serves approximately 3.8 million members nationwide as of June 30, 2016. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company's website at www.wellcare.com or view the company's videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/WellCareHealthPlan.
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SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.