“Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me Had Better Start Running!”

Terri Lynne Transplant Patient & Dr. Dodson Transplant Surgeon

Terri Lynne giving her medal from the GA Transplant Games to her transplant surgeon, Dr. Dodson

Georgia native and Douglasville resident, Terri Lynne was born with a rare disease called Tyrosinemia, it is a genetic disorder characterized by elevated blood levels of the amino acid tyrosine, a building block of most proteins.  Terri’s disease caused her liver cancer that led to a liver transplant at the age of 13.   As a child, Terri had her transplant at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston and was performed by Emory’s Dr. Thomas Dodson, who started the pediatric liver transplant program in 1990.  Terri was only the 8th pediatric liver transplant in Georgia.  It’s been 20 years since Terri’s transplant, and she feels it is important to give back to the transplant community. So much so, in fact, that when Terri visits the Emory Transplant Center for her own appointments, she frequently shares her story and answer questions for people who are just beginning their own transplant journey. It’s her mission to let others know that even after undergoing a transplant, there are no limitations in what they can do.  In Terri’s case, she set not a long-term goal, but rather a long distance goal, to participate in her first marathon after receiving her transplant.

In her first attempt in making strides towards her goal, Terri signed up to run in a 400 meter race at the GA Transplant Games- but she was unable to finish the race.  That’s when Terri made it her mission for the next year to run the whole thing. She began taking baby steps towards her long distance goal in 2006 when she says, “I ran the first mile ever in my life and I couldn’t stop.”

Terri chose the Marine Corps Marathon in 2007 as her ultimate test.   “The final push for me to sign up came when a fellow transplant friend dared me to do it.  He told me he would shave his head if I ran the whole thing. Given my transplant and medical history, I wasn’t sure if I could do it but I wanted to find out.”

Terri finished the marathon in 6 hours and 6 minutes.

Now, when Terri visits the Emory Transplant Center and passes the inspirational photos of transplant recipients that have always graced its wall, she has something to celebrate.  “One of them is of me; I am crossing the finish line of that marathon.  A Marine gave me my finish medal; I gave him a hug and started crying, I couldn’t believe it. Sometimes, I still don’t believe it.”

And despite her improved health, Terri continues to visit the Emory Transplant Center, both as a patient and an ad hoc advocate who is always willing to share her story and inspiration with other patients on her own visits.  “I have been going to Emory and Egleston since I was two years old; it is all I have ever known.  In the last three years I have had some issues with my liver and kidney numbers. It can be scary sometimes, but my coordinator Dianne [Dianne Thackston] has been very understanding, compassionate and has helped me deal with it. I wouldn’t trust my care to anyone but Emory!”, says Terri.

And in the true spirit of giving back in the way she was given to, Terri even donated one of her own medals from the GA Transplant Games to her surgeon, Dr. Dodson.  “I wanted to surprise him. I made him close his eyes, put the medal around his neck and said, ‘I won this for you’. It was a small way of saying thank you for saving my life and being able to do that made my day.”

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