Singing with another woman's lungs

Story highlights

  • Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick, an opera singer, has had two separate double lung transplants
  • She and her donor's daughter have struck up a friendship

(CNN)This fall, renowned soprano Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick will inhale deeply, filling her new transplanted lungs with air, and sing. Performing alongside her will be Esperanza Tufani, a 24-year-old restaurant manager in Ohio. Tufani's mother was the donor for Tillemann-Dick's lungs.

"It will be a coming together for what was and what is," Tillemann-Dick said. She received the lungs of Tufani's mother, an immigrant from Honduras, in a transplant operation in 2012. Tufani's mother died of a stroke at 48.
The transplant sparked a friendship between the opera singer and the young woman she met a year after her surgery.
    "Singing with Charity ... it's just something I can't really describe. The thought of me singing with my mother would be amazing, but since that's not possible, still in a way getting to do that through Charity is just ... it's just an incredible feeling," Tufani said.

    Overcoming the odds

    Now 34, Tillemann-Dick has gotten fame and acclaim alongside the physical and emotional toll of two separate double lung transplants.
    In 2004, she was diagnosed with advanced idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, a rare and potentially fatal condition that affects the heart and lungs. At the time, she was studying at the renowned Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary. Her doctors told her to stop singing, but Tillemann-Dick refused. She attempted to avoid a transplant by having a prescribed liquid medication pumped directly to her heart through a tube in her chest, 24 hours a day.