Christy Hamilton tells people her mother gave her life three times: once at birth, once when she gave her a lobe of her lung, and once when she gave her a kidney.
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1974, Hamilton's parents were told she probably wouldn't live past 16.
"I didn't know much about it at the time," Gail Hubbard, 61, of Mooresville said as she recalled hearing her daughter's diagnosis. "It felt like I'd been hit up side the head. It was very overwhelming."
Hamilton, now 39, kept her illness in check by being active, and with the help of various medications and therapies. She didn't have any major hospitalizations until she was 23, when she got pneumonia.
She gave birth to her daughter when she was 25, which is fairly rare for women with CF.
"It is hard for many women with CF to have children due to the inability to conceive and the fact that many are so sick by the time they reach the childbearing age," Hamilton said.
That's why they call Hamilton's daughter, Casey MacDermod, 14, a miracle baby. The family looks forward to celebrating Mother's Day together May 9.
Then, at 28, Hamilton moved from Virginia to Mooresville with her daughter and husband of four years. Shortly after, she got a severe lung infection, which eventually led to her lung transplant almost three years later. Other family members followed Hamilton to the area to help take care of her.
Because of an antibody issue, she had to receive organs from a relative, so finding a donor match took some time. Hamilton had a double living lobar lung transplant in 2001. Both of her lungs were removed and replaced by a lobe of a lung from her mother, and a lobe from her uncle. It was the fourth procedure of its kind done at Duke University Medical Center.
"I just had such a peace about me at that time," Hamilton said about undergoing the operation. "I don't know how to explain it, other than God gave it me. I had no fear at all, and I was determined to beat whatever came up."
Hubbard added: "One way or another she said she would be going home - to heaven or her family - and that was her attitude throughout this ordeal."
Because of Hamilton's diabetes - a common side effect of CF and anti-rejection medication - she had to have a kidney transplant in 2008.
Her mother stepped up again.
"I think any mother would do it," said Hubbard. "I did it for my daughter and granddaughter."
Hamilton added: "And she never complained once about anything."
"I know any mother would do what my grandmother did," MacDermod said. "She's always been the most compassionate person I know. She always thinks about other people before herself. My mom and grandma both love each other so much and we all have such a great relationship because of this."
Hamilton recently started experiencing chronic rejection of her lungs and has started an additional anti-rejection treatment. She will know if the treatment has stabilized rejection issues in June. If not, she will undergo a harsher treatment that will severely affect her immune system for at least three months, she said.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the U.S. It causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract and often leads to life-threatening lung infections.
Nearly 1 in 30 Caucasians in the U.S. carry the defective gene that causes CF, but a person must inherit a defective gene from each parent. Hamilton's daughter does not have the disease.
According to an April article in The New York Times, the median age of survival for CF is now over 37, thanks to new therapies, specialized care and newborn screening programs.
The family also wants to spread awareness about the importance of being an organ donor.
"To think there might be someone out there who you could help, that'd be a great legacy to leave behind," Hubbard said.