February 12, 2019
Lara Marsh can typically be found moving 100 mph — figuratively, not literally.
Despite being a workaholic with a determined attitude, she still doesn’t have enough time to do all the things she’d like.
You’d think her diagnosis of cystic fibrosis would have slowed her down, but the biggest change Lara noticed since receiving new lungs to combat this disease in 2013 has been embracing life with more passion.
Theatre has always been a constant for Lara, and she loves her family, animals, reading and the outdoors.
Lara did face physical struggles while she waited and hoped for new lungs. Hers functioned at only 22 percent.
The obvious setbacks were walking and breathing.
“But worse were the oxygen tanks, the constant regimen of medications and their side effects,” Lara said. “I was sick mostly every day.”
But Lara was determined, proud and even embarrassed, and she refused to appear weak and often did not show it.
“That leads to a spiritual struggle,” she said. “I was so determined. I did everything I always did. I did not let daily ailing dictate my day…Others in the community thought they knew what I could or could not handle and made decisions that involved my life with an assumption that I could not do those things. This gets complicated. But it really showed me that people couldn’t speak for others. We all know our own bodies best. That should be enough.”
Lara was evaluated for a transplant in January 2012 and was listed on March 8.
She received her call for transplant on Nov. 4, 2013, and went in for the 10.5-hour surgery the next day in Denver, Colo.
Lara remembers the constant fear and anxiety that comes with getting listed as well as waiting for the call to come that lungs were available for her.
“There is a constant fear that something will get in your way that you do not expect that would prevent you from getting listed…I had a very honest and blunt doctor, which I highly appreciate. With that however, he wondered if I was ready for transplant.
“He said, ‘Tell me why I should approve you for transplant right now.’ Of course, I was ready — but he had to make sure I was physically and mentally ready. He was then able to see my determination and commitment.”
During recovery, Lara recalls how homesick she was. She had to stay in Denver to recover from her surgery.
Her husband stayed by her side the entire time, and Facetime with her cats and staying connected with family and friends through social media helped her tremendously to fight on and off depression.
If Lara could pinpoint the one aspect of her life that has changed the most since her transplant, it’s the way she embraces opportunities with more passion and true compassion.
“My opportunities become less about goals and more about humanity,” Lara said. “Therefore, my passions expand with my knowledge. I do not simply love animals now, but I advocate for them. I do not simply work on a play for its title, but for its message and growth opportunities. Finally, I have always tried to be a good person, but now I am more aware of my faults and truly try to improve upon them.”
Lara says her life has always been about beating the odds: first, living past eight years old, then living past 15 years old, graduating, marrying her husband, graduating college, buying a car, buying a house — “things we are supposed to do, right?” she says.
Now, Lara is almost done with graduate school and has seen 44 of the 50 states, has enjoyed the big cities, mountains and oceans, and recently went to Europe where she felt like she “was in heaven.”
“Who knows what other opportunities will present themselves, but I have a lot left to do!” she said in an email to Live On Nebraska.
Since her double-lung transplant, Lara has corresponded with her donor’s family, although they have not met in person. To this day, she celebrates her donor’s life on Nov. 4, and her own on Nov. 5.
As she moves forward with her second chance at life, she says she looks forward to growth:
“I look forward to continued growth in self, career, and travels,” Lara said, “and also how I can affect change. I mostly convey my proactivity with issues in our society via theatre. I tell stories. I have many more to tell.
“Now that I have been spoiled in recent travels to England and Scotland, something that had seemed impossible to me, these are now on my mind every day. The rest of the world seems accessible.”
Bluebarn’s upcoming production I and You will feature a panel regarding organ, tissue and eye donation. The panel will follow the show’s Feb. 17 performance and will feature Lara alongside several other community members with ties to donation.