‘I wouldn’t be here:’ Student survives double-lung transplant, advocates for organ donation

MILWAUKEE -- The life of a young woman from Milwaukee was altered by an unexplained illness.  On Monday, April 8, Aaliyah Milledge shared with FOX6 why her life-threatening journey inspired her to advocate for organ donation.

"Before my transplant, I didn't really like to walk, because it took so much out of me, but after my transplant, they couldn't keep me out the halls," said Milledge.

From the halls of the hospital to her Milwaukee neighborhood, Milledge took in the fresh air with her new lungs.

"It went from a simple cough to much more," said Milledge.

Aaliyah Milledge on life support

Last year, the 18-year-old started treatment for a mysterious lung condition.

"Actually, I felt pretty helpless," said Jeaniffer Milledge, Aaliyah's mom.

Aaliyah Milledge on life support

Jeaniffer Milledge said her daughter spent nine months in the hospital, had two incorrect diagnoses, and was put on life support.

"We decided that we should just try the transplant," said Jeaniffer Milledge.

After two months on a waiting list, doctors found a match.

Aaliyah Milledge before the double-lung transplant

Aaliyah Milledge before the double-lung transplant

"I was ecstatic. I just kept thinking about getting my whole life back," said Aaliyah Milledge.

Aaliyah Milledge underwent a double-lung transplant -- a 12-hour procedure.

"Instantly, you could see she was better. The next day, she was walking," said Jeaniffer Milledge.

Aaliyah Milledge after the double-lung transplant

Aaliyah Milledge after the double-lung transplant

"Aaliyah is our hero," said Colleen McCarthy, vice president of organ and tissue donation at Versiti BloodCenter of Wisconsin.

Now a senior at Rufus King High School, Aaliyah Milledge is encouraging others to provide the same gift that saved her life.

"Of all ages and races, we should all be donors, because it just saves a lot of people's lives," said Aaliyah Milledge.

Aaliyah Milledge after the double-lung transplant

Aaliyah Milledge after the double-lung transplant

"That decision can save the lives of up to 75 people," said McCarthy.

Aaliyah Milledge has a second chance -- thanks to a donor who said "yes" to giving.

"Everything I do now, I dedicate to them, because without them, I wouldn't be here," said Aaliyah Milledge.

April is National Donate Life Month. You may sign-up to be an organ, tissue or eye donor by registering online, at the DMV or by mail. For details, CLICK HERE.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.