(FOX News) - Mere minutes before Maria Gamboa’s surgeons planned to hook her up to a machine that would have oxygenated her blood and sustained her vital organs, Gamboa received the news: Doctors had identified a donor match to replace her failing lungs.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates an average of 79 people receive an organ transplant every day, but Gamboa’s path to this point was more circuitous than that of many patients’.
While battling an incurable disease that progressively scarred and shrunk her lungs, 44-year-old Gamboa flew across the globe in search of a surgeon who would perform the double lung transplant and save her life. And then, when she finally did find a hospital that would treat her— the Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio— the Caracas, Venezuela, native needed to find a way to foot the $250,000 operation bill.
To help cover what would amount to nearly $700,000 in medical and travel expenses, Gamboa’s friends and family sold handmade bracelets. They established a foundation called “Respirar es Vivir,” which translates to “Breathing is Life,” and today continue to sell bracelets to benefit other Hispanic patients who can’t afford crucial respiratory care.