TEDMED is a yearly medical conference in San Diego, so attendees must have wondered what was going on when Charity Tillemann-Dick (Who performs under the name Charity Sunshine) walked out and sang for the audience. TEDMED has an unusual format – every speaker, from the most well-known to the guy you never heard of, gets 18 minutes to make their presentation. This woman could really sing, but her clock was running. Whatever point she was trying to make, she had better get to it.
And that’s when Charity dropped the bomb: “One year ago today, I awoke from a thirty-day coma after receiving a double lung transplant.”
Charity had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, a disease that causes the blood vessels in the lung to lose their elasticity and the right side of the heart to enlarge. Doctors told her she would have to give up singing. Charity wasn’t pleased with that option, so she changed doctors. The drug she chose to slow the hypertension down has to be infused 24 hours a day and requires a four and a half pound pump. Charity learned how to hide it under her opera costumes and just kept on going. As expected, her health deteriorated to the point that she needed a transplant.
There was a good chance that a lung transplant would kill her voice, so she asked the doctors to do a special procedure to try to save her vocal cords. The transplant was a hard thing, throwing her into a coma for a full month. But one year ago, Charity woke up, and began to piece her life and her singing career back together.
By now her 18 minutes were drawing to a close. “We need to stop letting disease divorce us from our dreams. We will find that patients don’t just survive, we thrive,” Charity said, and with that she ended her presentation with a very fitting song.
She sang I Could have Danced all Night.