Couple’s love story survives, thrives after three lung transplants
At 23 years old, Ally Jenkins has her name on a very short list, one that no one envies. She has had three double lung transplants.
At 14, Jenkins learned she had a rare form of pulmonary hypertension. She got her first transplant. Her body quickly rejected those lungs, and she had a second transplant. Both of those operations took place in California, where Jenkins lived at the time.
Eight years later, when Jenkins needed another new set of lungs, doctors there said it would be too risky.
“I’ve been told so many times that I wasn’t going to make it, or that I’d never be able to do certain things, and I’ve always beat those expectations every single time,” she said.
On April 28, doctors at Duke University Hospital put their faith in their talents, and more importantly, in Jenkins, and performed her third lung transplant.
Jenkins put her faith in a higher power. “I give all glory to God,” she said.
It’s been three months since that third transplant and Jenkins is graduating from rehab.
“Just getting my body to be strong again has been really difficult,” she said. “I’ll be working out, and then I’ll get out of breath, and then fear will take over, and I’ll think I can’t breathe. But really, it’s just me pushing my lungs to expand.
“It’s weird, because I think about where I was just two months ago, and half of the workouts I did today, I wouldn’t have been able to even get through,” she said.
By her side is Mason Sargent, Jenkins’ boyfriend who moved with her from California. Sargent fell for Jenkins in kindergarten, and has spent much of his time by her side since.
“One of my kindergarten teachers had me write a journal,” he recalled. “I started off with I love God. I love my mom. I love my dad, and then at the end, I say ‘I love Ally.’”
They started dating at 19.
“He’s been my complete rock,” Jenkins said. “He has never complained. He completely took over taking care of me, from doing my medicine every day to washing my hair and just everything in the hospital. He was like a nurse to me. He was helping me up and down the hallways, helping me get to the bathroom. Physically, he’s been a great support.”
“I just love this girl with all my heart,” Sargent said.
As she waited for that third transplant, he was looking to make their bond last a lifetime. At Duke Gardens, with her parents looking on, he proposed.
“I just looked at her, and I told her, ‘You know, you’ve really showed me what love is, and you taught me how to love, and I want to take this life on with you.’”
His commitment fueled Jenkins through the wait for a transplant and her recovery.
“After he proposed, there would be days that I would forget that I was even waiting for a lung transplant, because I was just so happy that we were together and that he wanted to marry me,” she said.
With every step and every breath, getting easier, the couple is planning a return to California and a future filled with travel, children and helping others. Jenkins hopes to start a foundation to support and inspire others in need of transplants.
“I can show that them that, look, you can get through this, and when you do, there’s a beautiful life that you’re going to have,” she said.
To help with her medical expenses and her stay in the Triangle, Jenkins’ friends and family are raising money online.
“Unfortunately, my insurance has just maxed out,” she said. “It really is becoming stressful for us because Duke wants to keep us here for a while and it’s coming to a point where we don’t even know how we would be able to stay because there’s just no way to keep up with the money that we need to pay for, all the things we need to pay for.”