‘This is our only prayer:’ Family pleads for lung transplant for Ocala teacher with COVID

Doctors say she won’t survive without transplant

OCALA, Fla. – Teresa Twist is holding on to life at Ocala Regional Medical Center after contracting COVID-19. Her family is pleading for a lung transplant she desperately needs.

“She gives everything for anyone. She went back to school when some teachers quit to help her students and contracted COVID. All we’re asking is for her to get on a donors list so she can survive,” daughter Chasity Price said.

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Teresa Twist, 62, has been working as an assistant teacher for children with disabilities at Ward-Highlands Elementary School in Ocala for seven years. Her family said she was diagnosed with an eye disease at a young age causing her to be legally blind, but her passion for helping others drove her to get a teaching certificate.

In February, Teresa Twist tested positive for COVID-19.

“My mom just got sick and my dad got sick around the same time. She was healthy before that,” Price said.

Teresa Twists’ husband, Richard Twist, is back home, but she is still in the hospital on life support. The couple have been married for 36 years.

“She’s so full of life. We met late in life. I could’ve spent all eternity with her and it still wouldn’t be long enough. She means the world to me and I don’t know what I’d do without her,” Richard Twist said.

After doctors reviewed a scan of her lungs, the family was told Teresa Twist would need a lung transplant.

“The doctor said her lungs are irreversible, they will not get better. They said she has severe pulmonary fibrosis and that she will not survive without a transplant,” Price said.

Price said Teresa Twist is being tested every few days for the virus and is still testing positive a month later. Her family was told by doctors that she wouldn’t be eligible to get transferred to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville or put on the organ donor’s recipient list until eight weeks have passed.

“Eight weeks? She doesn’t have that time. We have to wait eight weeks just so she can go on the list and wait again for a lung?” Price said. “Our doctor said their hands are tied.”

Price said UF Health Shands Hospital representatives told her they had an eight-week grace period to see if the patient would get better before they add them to the organ donor recipient list. Price said Teresa Twist’s doctors said her lungs will only get worse and that she may not survive the eight weeks.

Now the family is pleading for help to get Teresa Teresa on a lung transplant list so she can have a fighting chance to get back to her family and the children she adores.

“Please put her on the list now so she has a chance for survival. Be the voice for my mother since she can’t have a voice herself,” Price said.

“This is our only prayer, that lung. we’re not asking for anything other than a chance for her to survive and come home to me. We’re not asking for special treatment or for her to be put on the top of the list. We just want her on the list,” Richard Twist said.

You can help advocate for Teresa Twist and follow updates from her family on social media using #getteresalungs.

News 6 reached out to UF Health Shands in Gainesville about why Twist has not been added to the lung donor recipient list. A spokesperson responded in an email.

“Due to patient privacy laws, we cannot comment on any particular case without patient consent. However, in general, UF Health would work with a patient’s current medical team to assess what is best for the patient. There could be a pause while a medical issue is resolved.”

According to the spokesperson, “A patient can be transferred or referred. UF Health works with a patient’s medical team to determine what is best for the patient. Each case is evaluated to determine whether a patient is likely to benefit from treatment. The patient will also complete various medical tests to see if they qualify for a transplant. These results are then presented to a review board.”

The spokesperson said the organ transplant process remains the same for patients and hasn’t changed due to COVID-19.

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