Charity Tillemann-Dick is an opera singer. She’s been all over the world sharing not only her incredible singing talent but also her story of pain, resilience, faith, triumph, and hope.
In 2004, Charity was diagnosed with a very rare disease called idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. Her doctors advised her to sign up for a double lung transplant, but she refused. She had trained her lungs for years so that they could power her treasured singing voice. She knew that even if she were lucky enough to receive a transplant, the surgery could cost her a career and her identity.
But in 2009, Charity realized that she must accept the transplant or else let death conquer. The “success” only lasted a couple years before her body rejected the transplant. Death seemed imminent, but her time to pass from this life to the next had not yet come. Miraculously another match was found only months after being stuck again in the hospital.
In the following TED Talk, she explains her experience as she underwent the process of surgery and recovery. This presentation was given after her second double lung transplant in early 2012.
It was nothing short of a miracle. “18 people will die as we sit in this auditorium,” she informs her audience, “waiting for a match.” It’s unlikely that she’ll receive another transplant, and eventually, she admits, her body will reject the lungs she currently has.
But she does not complain. “Activism is not the same as whining,” Charity says. We have to act, do our part and show that we are more powerful and effective than our situation.
For Charity, opera has been vital to her resilience. “It gave me something to live for, something I really wanted to do and something I felt I was called to do,” she said.
It has given her new life—twice. She is happily married, she continues to sing, and she knows that God’s love is eternal and infinite, and it’s a love that she’s seen in the families of her organ donors, in her personal relationships and in the miracles that have allowed her to get so far and accomplish her dreams.