Charity Tillemann-Dick has all the essentials for a successful operatic career: amazing talent, connections with important people in the world of opera and just plain luck. But her future as a great singer is threatened when, at the age of 21, she is diagnosed with the rare disease, pulmonary hypertension. The doctor informs her that a double lung transplant is imperative or she will die within five years.
In this memoir, Charity recounts the grueling ordeal of undergoing surgery and her efforts to face the rigors of therapy and other aspects of her long recovery with determination and tenacity. She describes the limitless support of family members, including her 11 brothers and sisters who put their lives on hold to aid in her recovery. And, as she heals, she falls in love with the man who will become her husband. This anticipated marriage becomes an important impetus for her to get healthy.
Seven years after her diagnosis and two years after her transplant operation, Charity’s 2011 debut at Lincoln Center is a dazzling success. Accolades are showered on her by peers and reviewers. But, as she leaves the stage after her last bow, she collapses into a wheelchair and is flown by Medi-Vac to the Cleveland Clinic.
Her body has rejected the transplanted lungs and a second double-lung transplant is necessary. She waits months for a match and during that time her body deteriorates. Once she undergoes the second transplant, the road back to health is even more challenging than the first time. Teetering between life and death, Charity learns to breathe, walk, talk, eat, and finally sing again.
The author has written her memoir in three acts, similar to the structure of an opera with its rise and fall. Her journey is an inspiring story of overcoming the threat of death in order to fulfill her extraordinary musical gift and her dream of being an opera star.
Charity Tillemann-Dick is a soprano and top-selling Billboard classical artist. She studied music at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University and the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary, where she was a Fulbright Scholar. Atria Books is the publisher of this 340-page autobiography.