HOUSTON — "It's a miracle to have all those things lined up like that," Williamson said.
Until the transplant, Williamson coughed all day and had to be attached to an oxygen tank constantly. About a year ago, her doctor told her she needed a transplant.
"I couldn't talk; I couldn't laugh," Williamson recalled.
So, Williamson and her husband headed down to Houston 10 months ago. Within six months, Myers-Santana, who had a sudden, violent decline in her health and could barely breathe, joined Williamson, hoping she, too, would be a viable candidate for that type of transplant.
Then the waiting began, with the sisters housed just 10 doors apart in a Houston RV park. On a few occasions, each woman was offered a lung, but they bickered over who should take it.
"If we hadn't had the transplant when we did, she would be dead right now, dead," Williamson said adamantly, her sister sitting beside her in the hospital room.
Myers-Santana agrees with that, yet believed Williamson needed to have the first transplant.
"Her coughing just hurt to my core. You can't help someone that coughs like that," Myers-Santana said. "It's so hard to watch, and so I felt she needed it more than I did.
"I can live with a cough, but she can't live without oxygen, so I win," Myers-Santana shot back, smiling at her sister.
In the end, though, the individual lungs weren't a match.
Now, less than two weeks after the surgery, Williamson has the right lung and Myers-Santana has the left. They have on makeup, their hair is done, and they joke with their doctors — extending an invitation to Santa Barbara for free manicures and pedicures at Williamson's salon. Their husbands and children linger in the background. Colorful balloons wishing them well float above.
They can talk, joke and laugh without an oxygen tank.
And they can breathe easy.