By Ann Ali
CHARLESTON -- Most people stop exercising when they run out of breath, but one Charleston woman just continues to push harder.
Tera Winfree of Charleston was chosen for the 2011 Richard L. Swanson Inspiration Award, an award given to a member of the Healthways SilverSneakers Fitness Program. The 56-year-old was selected from more than 500 nominees.
She is an athlete at heart, even when her lungs may not have agreed.
Winfree has lived with Cystic Fibrosis her entire life, but has managed to stay engaged in physical activity nearly every day. She continued even when her daily activities were so laborious, she took three or four naps a day, and a shower would take an hour.
Winfree managed to play tennis, bicycle, play volleyball and basketball with compromised lungs, surprising her doctors with her steady determination.
Winfree even carried an oxygen tank with her to the Charleston Family YMCA for her daily workouts, and when her lungs couldn’t keep up, she found the SilverSneakers program, which is a national program that offers a blend of physical activity, social opportunities and healthy lifestyle direction.
Winfree continued her daily exercise regimen, but six years ago, she got the flu, pneumonia and a lung infection all at once.
“Her life then turned upside down as her lungs could no longer support her determined spirit and her attitude couldn’t compensate for the Cystic Fibrosis,” Program Adviser at the Charleston YMCA Cindy Boggs said in a news release.
Winfree’s conditioned continued to deteriorate, and even when she couldn’t drive herself to the YMCA, she caught rides with friends. When she could no longer attend SilverSneakers classes, her classmates and instructor would call to check on her.
“In October 2009, Tera entered the Cleveland Clinic, and in November she received the gift of a double lung transplant,” Boggs said. “Within seven days after her surgery, Tera was taking a few steps, and from there she progressed quickly.”
Just 60 days after her double lung transplant, Winfree drove herself to the Charleston YMCA and walked into SilverSneakers class without an oxygen tank.
“A week after the transplant, they got me out of bed, and I thought, ‘well, this wouldn’t be anything,’ and I just went to the floor because I had just lost all my strength,” Winfree said. “Now I’m back to playing tennis.”
Winfree says she has always been physically active, and she wanted to get back to her life again, even though it was a difficult thing to do.
“I’m in shock about being the national winner,” Winfree said. “Anyone who donates their lungs or other organs is giving you a gift. I have to preserve that gift, and exercise helps me do that.”