• Transplant

    Britiny’s team

Britiny Schultz

Britiny Schultz can't wait for fall. A huge football fan, she's looking forward to cheering on her favorite teams. It's something many fans take for granted — not Britiny. She's able to keep cheering, thanks to her doctors at Mayo Clinic and the incredible gift of life from not just one, but two organ donors.

Britiny and her nieces and nephews

The South Dakota native says she closely follows two teams: "The Bison for North Dakota and the Dallas Cowboys."  

They are two teams with storied histories. But there's a third team that tops them both, at least in Britiny's mind. "I have an amazing team here," she says.

Watch: Britiny's story

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (2:43) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

"Here" is the transplant center at Mayo Clinic. Britiny was born with a congenital heart defect. As a young girl, she was able to live with the issue, but slowly her symptoms took their toll. In 2016, Britiny underwent a heart and double-lung transplant. Then, in the fall of 2022, she says she started having new troubles.

"Couldn't really do a whole lot. You know, just was tired all the time. Lost my breath doing anything, you know, stuff like that. Just couldn't keep up with everyday life," Britiny says.

A trip back to Mayo in early 2023 uncovered the problem. "She developed a very serious lung infection called scedosporium, which is very, very difficult to treat. And, unfortunately, it led to a decline in her lung function," says Dr. Sahar Saddoughi, a Mayo Clinic transplant surgeon.

Dr. Saddoughi and Britiny

The good news is that Britiny's new heart remained strong. The bad news is that once the fungal infection is in the lungs, it's very hard to get rid of. Dr. Saddoughi says she knew they needed to approach Britiny's case differently. "Can we just retransplant her lungs, keep her heart there and then treat her with very potent antifungals to try to get rid of that infection?" Dr. Saddoughi asked her team.

But would it work? As they investigated, Dr. Saddoughi and her team found one other case reported in medical literature, but even that wasn't exactly the same. She says another question mark was connecting the new lungs to the trachea.

"When she had that initial transplant, her connection to the donor lung was at the level of the trachea. But for just a lung transplant, now you're doing the connection lower. And that was one of the surgical challenges or concerns that we had," says Dr. Saddoughi.

But the decision was made to go ahead. Britiny says she had mixed feelings.

"I was scared. Because the first time, I didn't know what to expect. And then this time was, I knew. But yeah, it was just scary — but exciting too," says Britiny.

In March of 2023, Britiny underwent her second double-lung transplant. At a recent follow-up appointment, Dr. Saddoughi shared that the lungs were working fine, and the infection was gone. She credits the way that different teams worked so well together.

"What's great about Mayo is that we have so much expertise in all the different areas, which is how we can do cases like this — so our lung transplant pulmonology team, our infectious diseases team, all the people that are working in the hospitals to really help us through the surgery and her postoperative and preoperative care. It's really critical for the success of our patients," says Dr. Saddoughi.

Britiny and friend attending an NDSU football game

While the start of football season is still a few months away, Britiny says she has been tracking her teams. "I know what's going on all the time — let's just put it that way — even on offseason," she says.

She adds that she is looking forward to cheering her teams on, including her team at Mayo.

"I can't thank everyone enough — I mean nurses, doctors, everything," Britiny says.