For Sarah Perez, being active and spending quality time with her family are two of the most important aspects of her life. She has always enjoyed playing sports, camping, fishing, and exploring the great outdoors. In addition, she spends her time giving back to the community by volunteering at her children’s school and local hospital. However, at only 23, Sarah was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic lung damaging disease.

“Not being able to get out of the house and play sports or watch your kids play at the park can be very frustrating because you want to, but it takes so much energy just to sit here and breathe,” Sarah said.

After her diagnosis, a steady decline in her health made it difficult to enjoy the things she loved, the things that had always been second nature. Over time, even the simplest of tasks like taking a shower or getting dressed became a challenging as she had to take frequent breaks to catch her breath.

She was given a machine that helped loosen her lungs and stuck to a meticulous routine of medications and doctor’s appointments, but she was told the only cure was a double lung transplant. On October 1, 2014, Sarah was officially put on the national transplant list.

The thought of enjoying the little things, like wrestling with the kids and singing karaoke, helped her stay positive through her wait. She also had a strong support system and relied on her unwavering faith to get through each day. Even before she was listed she often thought about the person who may eventually give her the ultimate gift; she knew their generosity and willingness to help others would be her opportunity to be adventurous again and “hold nothing back.”

On March 30, 2017, she received the call that would set her free; there was a match on a set of lungs for her.

Post-transplant, Sarah vows to take full advantage of her new lease on life. Today, she is not only able to attend all of her children’s baseball games but can scream and cheer when they do well. She even finds pleasure in daily chores, like vacuuming, folding laundry, and doing the dishes, remembering how arduous those simple tasks used to be.

“I am over the top grateful to my donor for the gift of life. It’s the most unselfish thing they could do, is to give life to someone who is just struggling to stay alive. Now I am alive and thriving,” she said. “I am moving forward and enjoying every little thing and being sure not to take anything for granted.”

Her struggle to just make it through the day has transformed into making plans for the future as they schedule camping trips and family outings. She even surprised her kids with a Disneyland vacation just months after her transplant.

“To me it takes a person of strength, compassion, and selflessness to be a donor. They are leaving a piece of themselves so someone else may live. There are no words that could ever come close to expressing my thankfulness to my donor.”