Providing fresh insights and strategies for professionals, patients and families
Tiffany Christensen was born with cystic fibrosis; a life limiting genetic disease that primarily effects the lungs and digestive system. In 1995, at the age of 21, Tiffany was given the bad news that her lung disease had progressed to the point that she need a lung transplant to survive. Tiffany sadly left the NC School of the Arts where she was studying to be an actress and began to look for ways to cope with illness during the long wait for organs.In 2000, Tiffany got "the call," got her lung transplant and enjoyed the best health of her life for two years. It was this point Tiffany was diagnosed with a difficult-to-treat complication some transplant recipients face: chronic rejection. Tiffany's health declined rapidly and a second transplant was not an option.
During her time living "life in the deathbed" Tiffany cycled through all of the stages of grief and greeted her mortality at the age of 30. Over time, she became to accept and even look forward to the time she would "graduate early" and "move on to the next big adventure." She was at peace.This peace was interrupted by a passionate nurse who vowed to help Tiffany find her way back onto the transplant list. In 2004, Tiffany was given a second gift of life and received her second double lung transplant. (Yes, that's six lungs in one lifetime!)
When Tiffany awoke in the ICU after her second transplant, she realized that she had been doing the "patient thing" for a long time. She had developed strategies and coping mechanisms but the healthcare maze continued to be difficult to navigate. She reflected on how hard it must be for those new to the system and decided she wanted to find a way to share the lessons learned along her journey. As soon as her recovery allowed, Tiffany trained as a hospice volunteer and developed a pet hospice. Along with the pet hospice, Tiffany founded and ran a non-profit for pets needing expensive medical treatments their owners could not afford. Tiffany found this world of illness, loss, and grief to be a perfect way to train for the years ahead when shew would work with humans living with illness and loss.
Today Tiffany is a patient advocate at Duke Hospital, a national public speaker and the author of “Sick Girl Speaks!” (2007) and “We are the Change: Transforming the Healthcare Experience through Partnership” (2010). Tiffany is a grateful recipient of the Heroes of Hope award from Cystic Fibrosis Research Institute in Redwood City, CA. Her writings found in various publications such as the North Carolina Medical Journal, Boom! Magazine, and "Growing Up Dying" can be read in Hope Magazine. On air, Tiffany can be heard on The People's Pharmacy and other radio shows. Tiffany can also be seen on NBC17 and on her own youtube channel. Tiffany has written and co-directed three short films as a part of her Train the Trainer program and has written and co-directing six films on advance care planning for Duke University Health System. Tiffany is also proud to be serving as Duke's Co-Chair for Dr. Victor Dzau's Patient Advocacy Council.
Tiffany's health continues to be stable and strong. She likes to balance the intensity of her work with time spent with her boyfriend, their 3 dogs, her family and good friends. Tiffany also enjoys swing dancing for fun and excercise.