KEY POINTS

  • A 67-year-old woman could barely dress herself without getting out of breath before her double-lung transplant 
  • After her transplant in 2007, Joanne Mellady was extremely fit and active until she became infected with coronavirus 
  • Mellady passed away March 30 after her sister-in-law and and sisters spoke their final words to her via phone 

A 67-year-old woman who had a new lease on life following a double-lung transplant in 2007 has died of COVID-19. 

Joanne Mellady of Washington, New Hampshire, was dependent on oxygen before undergoing her life-changing surgery. Having dealt with a mysterious lung condition most of her life, eventually she tested positive for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic disorder that causes a predisposition for lung conditions. 

Ahead of her transplant, Melody developed emphysema before having her lungs completely replaced at the Cleveland Clinic. According to the clinic's medical director Dr. Marie Budev, Mellady's lungs were among the "worst" she had ever seen, functioning at just 15% capacity. After the procedure, Mellady flourished, however, living twice as long with her new lungs -- the average was 6.3 years -- as other lung transplant patients. 

Mellady was often excited to tackle "daredevil" stunts such as sledding down her driveway with her dachshund Oscar or doing flips on a trampoline. 

"She had this bucket list she made and went after it with a vengeance," said Jean Sinofsky, Mellady's sister. "She appreciated every day. She lived her life like everybody should."

Mellady took her lung transplant as a new lease on life, and even participated in several trials for research purposes related to her condition to help find a cure for patients suffering from alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and others who supported organ donation. 

In March, Mellady had spent time with her family: her sisters and brother Fred Smith as well as a few other members. She enjoyed lunch with them before being taken to the hospital the next day with symptoms of pneumonia. A few days later, she tested positive for coronavirus. She began seeing a marked decline in her health before being eventually placed on a ventilator. 

Because of social distancing regulations and the very real possibility of becoming infected, Mellady's sisters could not visit her in person and said their goodbyes to her over the phone as she passed away. When taken off the ventilator the next day, she was only able to survive for four minutes. 

Mellady left behind a legacy with her family that her sisters won't soon forget. 

“I just told her I would miss her a lot and that I would take care of Oscar and that I loved her,” Smith said.

coronavirus symptoms start as a lingering slow burn then worsens Coronavirus symptoms start as a lingering slow burn then worsens. Photo: Engin_Akyurt - Pixabay