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At 32 years old, Raychel Baker took her first real breath. A breath of air from a new set of lungs. After more than three decades of living with an irreversible lung condition, she is finally free of disease.

Local Woman Takes First Breath after Receiving a Double Lung Transplant

Raychel Baker and Husband Bryson

At 32 years old, Raychel Baker took her first real breath. A breath of air from a new set of lungs. After more than three decades of living with an irreversible lung condition, she is finally free of disease.

Raychel has been in and out of the hospital since she was ten years old. The condition may not have an official name and the cause may be unknown, but the pain associated with it is very real.

“It manifests as a slow deterioration or scarring of the lung tissue”, she explains. “It is a devastating disease that steals your breath, your energy - and eventually your life.”

Raychel was an active and vibrant young girl who despite her disease, grew up to be a motivated and positive young woman. She married Bryson Baker in 2011.

“She is the love of my life and the strongest person I will ever know. Watching her condition worsen has been heartbreaking,” admits Bryson. “For several years, RayRaychel Baker and her sonchel’s lung capacity was at 30 percent, but then it dropped down to 13 percent. She couldn’t do much of anything without losing her breath.”

Once a fiercely independent person, Raychel reached the point where she was virtually homebound and reliant on others for the most basic of tasks. “It was a hard pill to
swallow,” she reveals. “I was the mother of a little boy and I couldn’t physically be the mother I wanted to be for him. That was probably the hardest part.”

The young family moved from Stillwater to Warr Acres to be close to her medical team at the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center. After months of testing, Raychel was officially put on the transplant list in January 2018. Doctors told her a double lung transplant was her only chance of survival.

“Raychel was dying,” says Alan Betensley, M.D., a transplant pulmonologist at INTEGRIS. “She was so sick in fact, that she earned the top spot on the transplant list.” A position she would hold for two and half months before getting ‘the call’ on April 12.

“It’s hard to explain how you feel in that moment,” describes Bryson. “You’ve been praying for this miracle to come but at the same time you’re also praying for a family you know is now grieving the loss of a loved one.”

Raychel was prepped and ready for surgery when the surgeon came in with some upsetting news. “The surgeon comes in and he says, ‘no good’. He had seen something he didn’t like in the donated lungs. I can't explain it, but my heart broke immediately for Raychel,” Bryson remembers.

“It was probably the hardest day of my life,” accounts Raychel. “They told us a million times that this was a possibility. They prepared us for this, but still – it hurt.”

Four months later Raychel got another call, this time it was not a false alarm. She received her lungs on Aug. 16, 2018.

Betensley says it was a successful transplant. “Everything went as well as we could have hoped for. I am hopeful this is a brand new beginning for this amazing family.”

“It’s indescribable. When you have relied on a machine for every breath you have taken for the last few years, being able to breathe on your own, unassisted, is truly a gift from God… and of course my donor.”

The Bakers are sharing their story to encourage others to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.

Oklahomans have three options to register to be a donor. They can sign-up when renewing their driver’s license, visit www.LifeShareRegistry.org to sign up online or call 800-826-LIFE (5433) and request a donor registration form.