Half the lung, double the heart

by Josh Carpenter

Doctors only gave Lucy Parker a small chance to live when she was born with just half of one lung. (Courtesy of Lucy Parker)

DENVER – Lucy Parker is a fighter.
The Mountain Island resident didn’t exactly have a clean bill of health during her childhood years.
She was born a month premature with just half of a lung.
“It was odd because my body was a normal size when I was born,” she said. “I was totally normal. My lungs just didn’t develop.”
Doctors didn’t think Parker would survive, and just over a month after her birth, her parents received a call.
“It was around Easter and they called my parents in the middle of the night and told them they needed to come in and say goodbye,” Parker said. “They said I would never survive.”
Parker’s parents faced a decision no family member ever wants to encounter and took her off the breathing machine that was keeping her alive.
“They did it because they thought I was going to be brain-dead,” Parker said. “Then I started breathing on my own within minutes of when they took me off. It was really crazy.”
Parker’s next year wouldn’t be easy, as doctors developed the second half of her lung and performed more tests just to keep her alive.
“They didn’t start testing blood for HIV until 1983, and I was born in 1982,” Parker said. “So I had a blood transfusion every day for a year. The fact that I didn’t contract anything over that span is a miracle.”
After a year in the hospital, Parker made it out. Though she was out of the hospital, doctors still had their doubts, saying she would likely never be able to walk or live a normal life.
Developmentally, Parker was pretty much like everyone else.
“They kept giving us all these statistics about how I would never be normal,” Parker said. “They just said I probably wouldn’t live past the age of 5, so that’s why they didn’t bother to do a (lung) transplant.”
Parker not only defied what doctors told her, but thrived more than most kids her age. She ran track in school and played collegiate soccer at Belmont Abbey before transferring to UNC Charlotte.
“I don’t know what it’s like to live with two lungs, but I’ve never had any severe struggles,” Parker said. “It’s definitely made things harder … it takes me longer to build up my endurance than most people I think. But I’m just a fighter.”
Now, Parker has her own photography company, Lucy Parker Photography, that primarily shoots weddings.
She also took pictures for the recent Triumph Over Adversity photo exhibit at CMC-Lincoln.
“For me, it was about connecting with these people that I met through the hospital and taking the time to care,” Parker said. “A lot of their stories are much worse than mine. To hear their stories, it was very touching.”
After the birth of her second daughter in 2007, Parker decided to challenge herself even more.
“I had never been a good runner, even though I ran track in high school,” Parker said. “So what a cool goal to try and do a marathon.”
Parker said she competed in 5Ks and 10Ks before eventually completing a marathon. Because she has just one lung, it takes her longer to build up her endurance leading up to a race.
Once she makes the race, can she keep up with her opponents?
“You know I do, and I kick their butts, too,” Parker said.

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