Carolee Jackson Bondurant is Thriving After a Double Lung Transplant

by Billy Chandler

As soon as she was out of the hospital after a double lung transplant, Carolee grabbled her rollator and found a hiking trail.

Anyone who has met Carolee Jackson Bondurant would describe her as full-of-life. But in 2016 she got a diagnosis that very much threatened her life: idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The short explanation of this disease is that the fibers of her lungs were becoming matted together and her lungs couldn’t get the needed oxygen. 

The expectation of living with this is between 2-5 years. “But I kinda let that pass over my head. My agenda was just to stay strong and healthy and keep on moving.”

Carolee is a biker, a hiker, and a yoga devotee. She eats a healthy diet, serves as a community volunteer, travels, makes art, and dotes on her family. She maintains a positive attitude despite this devastating news and the fact that she has also had a round with breast cancer.

She only found out about this health challenge because she noticed having to take a little extra effort to get a sip of air in her lungs. From there she ventured on a journey to learn more, find the right doctors, get on a list for a lung transplant, and hope for more than a little luck. Because she is very small in stature, they would have to find lungs that were small. She had to jump through an unending number of hoops to even qualify to have her name on the transplant list. Her body had to prove it could survive an ECMO (also difficult for a small person). And she had to make big decisions: for instance, would she accept only one lung if two couldn’t be found? (That answer was yes.)

Her situation began to get dire. While she was in the hospital, her brother Sherry came into the room and told her she was a “warrior woman.” Carolee says, “that’s all it took.” Her courage was bolstered and secured. 

She surprised the doctors by surviving the ECMO (she only recently really understood what a feat that was). Then, remarkably, it was only shortly after that procedure that the doctor came in to tell her the amazing news that two healthy lungs had come onto the transplant list; they were healthy, small, and a match.  

She has now put aside her rollator, and has returned to hiking and biking and travel and all the things she loves about life. When asked what her advice is to anyone facing a tough health situation, she says, “Listen to your doctors; don’t ignore what they tell you. Stay active. Eat nutritional food. And keep your exercise up – even if you’re tired, it’s better to get up and move.”

You can enjoy a wonderful, positive-energy discussion with Carolee on the Duck Pond Wall podcast.

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  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/572-class-notes-updated-fall-2018"><picture class="lw_image"><source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/454,1152,2310,3008/5629_Debbie_Robinson.rev.1541624931.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/454,1152,2310,3008/5629_Debbie_Robinson.rev.1541624931.webp 3x" data-origin="responsive"/><source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/454,1152,2310,3008/5629_Debbie_Robinson.rev.1541624931.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/454,1152,2310,3008/5629_Debbie_Robinson.rev.1541624931.jpg 3x" data-origin="responsive"/><img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/454,1152,2310,3008/5629_Debbie_Robinson.rev.1541624931.jpg" alt="Debbie Robinson, son Kristopher, and Eve Solomon during Homecoming 2018." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/454,1152,2310,3008/5629_Debbie_Robinson.rev.1541624931.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/454,1152,2310,3008/5629_Debbie_Robinson.rev.1541624931.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1856" data-max-h="1856" loading="lazy" data-optimized="true"/></picture></a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/572-class-notes-updated-fall-2018">Class Notes, Updated Fall 2018</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Keep up with news of your fellow alumni <a href="/live/news/572-class-notes-updated-fall-2018" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/2430-town-of-saltville-eyes-big-plans"><picture class="lw_image"><source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.webp 3x" data-origin="responsive"/><source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG 3x" data-origin="responsive"/><img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG" alt="This beautiful bird is the latest visitor to the well fields in Saltville, and bird enthusiasts are having fun figuring him out. There is..." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,3200,2400/11805_gwh_all.rev.1660772634.JPG 3x" data-max-w="3200" data-max-h="2400" loading="lazy" data-optimized="true"/></picture></a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2430-town-of-saltville-eyes-big-plans">Town of Saltville Eyes Big Plans</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> There’s a Labor Day party coming up in Saltville, Virginia, but town leaders are looking at much more than just a big weekend. <a href="/live/news/2430-town-of-saltville-eyes-big-plans" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/1855-gabbie-rhodes-is-teaching-in-a-forest-pre-school"><picture class="lw_image"><source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/9869_PXL_20210525_205306955.PORTRAIT.rev.1622135015.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/9869_PXL_20210525_205306955.PORTRAIT.rev.1622135015.webp 3x" data-origin="responsive"/><source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/9869_PXL_20210525_205306955.PORTRAIT.rev.1622135015.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/9869_PXL_20210525_205306955.PORTRAIT.rev.1622135015.jpg 3x" data-origin="responsive"/><img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/9869_PXL_20210525_205306955.PORTRAIT.rev.1622135015.jpg" alt="Gabbie Rhodes, Emory & Henry Class of 2016" width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/9869_PXL_20210525_205306955.PORTRAIT.rev.1622135015.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/9869_PXL_20210525_205306955.PORTRAIT.rev.1622135015.jpg 3x" data-max-w="2400" data-max-h="3200" loading="lazy" data-optimized="true"/></picture></a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/1855-gabbie-rhodes-is-teaching-in-a-forest-pre-school">Gabbie Rhodes Is Teaching in a Forest Pre-School</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Parents of a certain vintage are famous for the line, “Go outside and play.” But these days a lot of parents are saying, “Go outside and LEARN.” <a href="/live/news/1855-gabbie-rhodes-is-teaching-in-a-forest-pre-school" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>