| Opera singer performs with daughter of her lung donor

An opera singer, performing after two double lung transplants has debuted a song she wrote to pay tribute to the immigrant roots of her more recent donor.

Human family

Charity Tillemann-Dick and her lung donor’s 24-year-old daughter, Esperanza Tufani, sang the song together in front of about 200 doctors and medical executives at a Cleveland medical summit on Tuesday. Tillemann-Dick wrote the song, “American Rainbow”, to honour her connection with her donor, a Honduran immigrant who died of a stroke in 2012.

“We are all part of this big human family, and I think transplants show that better than anything,” Tillemann-Dick said. “I breathe because of someone who came to this country looking for a better life.”

Tillemann-Dick was studying opera in Hungary when she discovered she had pulmonary hypertension, a disease that caused her heart to swell to three and a half times its normal size and was likely to be fatal without a lung transplant. After getting new lungs in 2009, Tillemann-Dick had what she calls “a tiny wisp of a voice.” A doctor told her singing high notes would kill her, but she persisted and went through months of therapy before starting to sing again.

Transplanting lungs has recently becoming easier, and a previous Health24 article describes how a new method could help keep lungs outside the human body for over 12 hours without significantly harming recipients’ chances of survival.

Second set of lungs

Year later, Tillemann-Dick’s body rejected her transplanted lungs, an experience she calls the most “devastating thing that’s happened to me”.

Tillemann-Dick expected to die, but in 2012 she received a second set of lungs from Tufani’s mother, whose lungs turned out to be a better match. Tillemann-Dick’s voice recovered quickly, and her debut album, “American Grace”, topped Billboard’s classical charts in July 2014.

‘No regrets’

Tillemann-Dick wrote a letter to Tufani, thanking her for her mother’s lungs. Ten months later, the two got in touch through a mutual acquaintance and became fast friends. Tufani, a Chipotle restaurant manager who aspires to become a singer, said it was tough for her at the time to decide to donate her mother’s lungs, as she had lost touch with her mother after her parents got divorced.

Today, Tufani has no regrets.

“I always wanted to sing with my mom, but I didn’t have that relationship with her,” Tufani said. “Getting to do that through Charity, it’s amazing. She doesn’t really realize how much of an impact she’s had on my life.”

Image credit: iStock

NEXT ON HEALTH24X | Meet the man who can’t stop laughing once he starts

They say laughter is the best medicine. They also say there’s nothing better than a good cry. But what do you do when you have no control over these displays?

Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), also known as emotional incontinence, causes people to laugh and/or cry uncontrollably at any given moment. People who suffer from the condition find themselves reacting this way, even though there might be little or no trigger.

A degenerative condition

Scott Lotan is your average family man – husband, father of two beautiful children and lover of pugs. What makes him different from the average family man, though, is that he suffers from PBA.

PBA is the result of brain injury or a traumatic neurological condition. In Lotan’s case, PBA is the result of multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative condition where the central nervous system and the brain are affected.

Because MS damages or destroys the protective fatty layer that covers the nerves, suffering from this condition may result in several secondary conditions, and PBA is one of them.

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PBA or depression?

Depression is a secondary condition that people with MS may suffer from.

People may confuse suffering from PBA as depression, because both conditions involve emotion. PBA Info, however, lists a number of distinct differences to tell the two conditions apart:

  • In PBA, there is a neurological condition or brain trauma, while in depression there may not have been any brain trauma or neurological condition.
  • PBA sufferers have frequent, random outbursts of laughing fits and/or bouts of crying or sobbing, whereas those suffering from depression may or may not experience crying.
  • Those suffering from depression may have control over their crying, whereas PBA sufferers have no control.
  • Those suffering from depression display the emotions they’re actually feeling, so if they are crying, they will be feeling sad. PBA sufferers may be sobbing when they’re not sad at all.
  • Depression may be experienced without any brain or nerve trauma, but in the case of PBA, there will be definite brain or neurological trauma.

Another condition PBA should not be confused with is pseudobulbar palsy, which is much worse than PBA, in that sufferers aren’t able to control facial movements and have difficulty with speech and chewing.

Inappropriate display of emotions

Living with PBA can be extremely challenging and embarrassing, because there are many occasions where the emotion displayed is inappropriate.

A documentary has been produced to raise awareness about the condition, and many sufferers, including Lotan, have been able to share their stories and experiences living with the condition.

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There are a few questions to find out if you or someone you care about may be suffering from the condition. The first would be if your laughter or crying matches the way you’re feeling?

A neurologist would be able to give a proper diagnosis and recommend treatment, which may include taking medication, although there is no known cure for the condition.

There are several conditions that may cause people to develop PBA, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

NEXT ON HEALTH24X | 6 celebs who struggle with bladder control

Incontinence is accidental or involuntary loss of urine (urinary incontinence) or faeces (faecal incontinence).

It is a common condition and it is estimated that one in 10 Americans has continence issues. The problem ranges from small leaks to complete loss of control.

Not incurable

According to a previous Health24 article, incontinence in public is experienced by most people as extremely embarrassing and may have potentially serious psychological consequences.

“Patients who experience incontinence might experience a significant effect on their self-confidence and dignity,” Dr Ulla Botha, a psychiatrist and senior lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry at the Stellenbosch University, was previously quoted on Health24.

“Depending on the level of incontinence, their general functioning might also be affected, as patients often start to isolate themselves and may avoid social interaction to prevent possible embarrassment. This can even lead to depression.”

Incontinence can, however, be treated and managed. In many cases it can even be cured.

A number of international celebrities have overcome any embarrassment and gone public about their experiences with incontinence.

1. Kris Jenner

Matriarch of the Kardashian clan, Kris Jenner has opened up about her bladder problems on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Jenner is a TV personality, author and former talk show host. She is quite open about her incontinence and admits to wearing incontinence panties.

2. Stephen King

Stephen King is famous for his horror novels, including titles like The Shining, Carrie and The Green Mile. As a result of a protracted urinary tract infection he developed urinary incontinence. Although the problem was solved, he still keeps incontinence products next to his bed just in case. King is 69 years old.  

3. Samuel  Jackson

Famous for a number of box-office hits, including Snakes on a Plane, Star Wars and Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson developed a loss of bladder control when he was in his 40s. Initially it was a shock but, realising that millions of people have the same problem, he overcame his embarrassment and doesn’t hide the fact that he wears incontinence products on a daily basis – even while on movie sets.

4. Katy Perry

Pop artist Katy Perry Perry suffered from bladder leakage throughout her high school career and regularly had to wear incontinence diapers. After countless failed treatments, it was established that she suffered from a urinary tract infection. When the infection cleared up, she regained control over her bladder. Perry believes the experience has made her a stronger person. 

5. Kate Winslet

The 40-year-old star recently appeared on The Graham Norton Show where she explained that she developed stress urinary incontinence after having three children. Winslet says that she experiences bladder leakages when she sneezes or if she jumps on a trampoline. Most women aren’t as open as Winslet about their incontinence, but the truth is that up to one in every three women suffers from the condition at some point in their lives, according to a study published in Reviews in Urology.

6. Helena Bonham Carter

In 2009 Helena Bonham Carter revealed that she suffered from incontinence after giving birth to her second child. The actress admitted that she struggled during filming of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. She experienced pelvic-floor problems and lack of bladder control after having her baby and had to wear adult nappies. 

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons