Renowned soprano Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick, who performed worldwide after two separate lung transplants, has died, her family said.
“Our beloved Charity passed peacefully with her husband, mother, and siblings at her side and sunshine on her face,” the family said in a statement on Facebook on Wednesday. “Our hearts are broken. In this moment, the world is dark. But Charity’s rays extend far beyond her tragic finale on this earthly stage.”
Tillemann-Dick, 35, received her most recent lungs from a Honduran immigrant in a transplant operation in 2012.
Two separate transplants
In 2004, she was diagnosed with advanced ideopathic pulmonary hypertension, a rare and potentially fatal condition that affects the heart and lungs. At the time, she was studying 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.
Tillemann-Dick wanted to keep the lungs she had worked tirelessly for years to train. Her vocal cords could be damaged in surgery, and even if the procedure went perfectly, she would have to learn how to sing with the new lungs.
But in 2009, her condition deteriorated and she could no longer avoid a transplant. Her first transplant was 14 hours long, and she was put in a medically induced coma for 34 days afterward.
Her body rejected the transplant after years of brutal recovery. In 2012, she matched with another registered donor. This time, she was breathing on her own within a week after the surgery.
Despite doctors telling her she would never sing opera again, her debut album, “American Grace,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s traditional classical charts in 2014.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan contributed to this report