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Opera singer who received two double lung transplants has died at 35

Opera singer Charity Tillemann-Dick dies at 35
Opera singer, who received two double lung transplants, dies at 35 03:20

An inspiring opera singer who received not one but two sets of transplanted lungs over the course of her life has died at the age of 35, according to her family. Charity Tillemann-Dick was a champion of organ donation, which allowed her to continue doing what she felt she was born to do.

CBS News' Seth Doane met Tillemann-Dick back in 2012 at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic about a month after she underwent her second double lung transplant. She showed us her therapy sessions, and sense of humor.

She loved to sing from an early age, but at the age of 20 developed something called idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, which is when oxygen is not absorbed by the body and forces the heart to work overtime.

She had her first emergency lung transplant in 2009 and, later, needed another after her body started to reject them. After being placed on advanced life support, they found a match.

"Organ donation, in certain respects, it brings us closer to immortality," Charity said in 2012. "Because literally a part of us goes on living after we're gone."

Live – and sing – she did.

CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook met Tillemann-Dick several years later after she wrote a book about her experiences. She held a special performance with the daughter of her lung donor.  

"I think she gives me voice," Tillemann-Dick said of her donor.

Her family said humor is what got her through.

"It's each of our dreams to spend our lives with the people – with the thing that we love most – and I'm so grateful to be given another opportunity to sing and to share," she said. "And it brings me more joy than I can express. And I express a lot of things so that's saying something!"

She often went by the name "Charity Sunshine." Her husband wrote, "She passed away with family by her side and sunshine on her face."

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