Woman pursues healthy living to honor lung donor’s ‘Gift of Hope’

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OGDEN, Utah -- Rebecca Nelson was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, which showed up as a little scar on her lungs in 1980 while living in Texas, and 20 years later it reactivated—chewing up her lungs.

“Within a year, I would almost pass out just taking a shower,” Nelson said. “I couldn't walk up the stairs in my house, and so I went to the doctor, and he said you need to get in the hospital, your oxygen level is 70 percent."

Nelson got on the transplant list at the age of 59, and since she received donor lungs she has been taking good care of them and making sure to get plenty of exercise.

“I’ve lost 30 pounds since my surgery, so I've gotten skinny,” she said. “I got a Fitbit... it will really motivate you and drive you to walk X amount of steps a day."

Nelson also got hooked on Zumba and is now an instructor. She co-teaches one class at Hill Air For Base and one other in Ogden. While Nelson is 64, she has the fitness level of someone in their 40s.

She said she stays healthy to honor the sacrifice of her donor.

“This is what your lungs have meant to me, they've been a real blessing, and I thank God every day for them,” she said.

To become an organ donor in Utah, all you need to do is indicate “yes” on your driver’s license. You can also visit yesutah.org to sign up. Potential donors are also encouraged to notify their family of their decision, so those wishes can be carried out.

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