Lindsay Salguero-Lopez of Port Washington became the first person on Long Island to receive a heart and two lungs from a single donor. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

This year, Lindsay Salguero-Lopez celebrated her birthday with a very special gift.

She can breathe normally.

Last month, four days before she turned 40, the Port Washington woman became the first person on Long Island to receive a heart and two lungs transplanted from a single donor.

"This is the first time in my life that I have ever known what it’s like to breathe normal," Salguero-Lopez said at a news conference at Northwell Health headquarters in New Hyde Park. "To speak and not get tired. To walk and not get tired. It’s the first time in my 40 years that my body has done that."

At 6 years old, Salguero-Lopez was diagnosed with Eisenmenger Syndrome, a condition caused by a ventricular septal defect, which creates a hole in the heart that prevents the blood from moving in the correct direction, doctors said. At the time of her diagnosis, her family lived in Guatemala, but they moved to the United States when she was 15 to seek better treatment.

In 1998, Salguero-Lopez met Dr. Arun Talwar, a pulmonologist. He treated her for the pulmonary hypertension caused by the disease, which leads to the buildup of lung pressure and shortness of breath.

"We kept on going on this journey, it wasn’t smooth, it was up and down and there were countless numbers of [hospital] admissions that she had to go through," Talwar said.

Within the last five years, she said, small tasks like chopping tomatoes, getting dressed or walking up the stairs required too much energy and oxygen for her to manage.

"I couldn’t do much anymore other than sit on my couch, watch TV, paint, draw or knit," she said. "I made a lot of hats for all my family because there was nothing better to do."

Salguero-Lopez was also forced to cut her hair short because it takes too much oxygen to grow and style, she said.

On Jan. 27, during a trip to the store, she suddenly became ill. She was rushed to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, where she was informed that she urgently needed a lung transplant.

On Feb. 2, Salguero-Lopez found out she was placed on the waiting list for a new heart and a pair of lungs. Three days later, she underwent a seven-hour operation and became the first patient to receive a lung transplant on Long Island, while also receiving a new heart.

"I feel like the words 'thank you' are too small to say to my doctors," Salguero-Lopez said while holding back tears.

Her support system has included her husband, Lester Salguero, and son, Jacob, who were also at the news conference.

"I’m so happy for my son," she said, "because he’s going to have his mom for many years now."

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