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Maine woman fighting COPD for past 15 years waits for lung transplant

Zanetta Smith, 50, of Portland, hopes to receive a lung transplant. Right now, her disease is at Stage 4.

PORTLAND, Maine — Zanetta Smith has faced her share of adversity. A 50-year-old woman from Portland, Smith has been fighting chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for the past 15 years. Now, she is hoping to obtain a life-saving lung transplant.

Smith's health is not the only obstacle she's faced over the years. 

"I was living in an apartment, then I became homeless for six years, living out of my car with my dogs," Smith said. 

In 2007, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 COPDa disease that makes it difficult to breathe. In 2011, her doctor told her she had to stop working because of it.

"I'm depressed because I'm not able to do the things I use to be able to do," Smith said.

Smith received more upsetting news in 2019. Her COPD progressed to Stage 4 and she had to live off an oxygen tank.

Smith enjoyed working; she would work 40-hour weeks plus overtime. She told NEWS CENTER Maine that she can't wait to go back to work once she receives a lung transplant. 

"I was around secondhand smoke growing up as a kid, and whether I smoked or not, my lungs were going to fail," Smith explained.

After years of traveling back and forth to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, doctors told her a lung transplant is the only way to save her life.

She would have to stay in Boston for three months after receiving a transplant to recovera cost of around 10 thousand dollars that insurance won't cover.

"I have a difficult time asking people for money," Smith said.

That's where her health home coordinator with Spurwink, Celia Wright, stepped up. Wright asked people for help on Facebook to fix Smith's car so she can keep going to Boston, and keep that hope of getting a new lung alive.

"Facebook is a wonderful tool under the right page to reach the right people and I think there are a lot of people out there that are definitely willing to help," Wright said.

Now, Smith is hoping for good newsthat there's a lung for her. She's set to get on the transplant list in February. 

Massachusetts General Hospital told Smith the earliest she could get a transplant is six months from then, but it could take longer.

For Smith, it's urgent. She's fighting the same disease that killed her mother in 2017.

"People ask me if I'm anxious about it and I'm just so excited, I can't wait," Smith said. 

The National Foundation for Transplants is holding a fundraiser to help with Smith's medical costs for a transplant. Click here for more information.  

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