OCEAN SPRINGS -- April 11 would have marked 21 years.
Monica Mary Goretski died Sunday evening at age 47, more than 20 years after she was the recipient of a double lung transplant.
At the time of her surgery in 1993, doctors didn't give her long to live. The operation was dangerous and her right lung was operating at only a fraction of what it was supposed to due to pulmonary fibrosis.
Goretski proved doctors wrong by fighting to live past the initial three- to five-year prognosis -- and then some.
"She has always been very positive," said her brother, Tony. "She considered herself fortunate to live almost 21 years after her transplant. She considered herself lucky and blessed to get this many additional years.
"Back when she got the transplant, she was a pioneer. They only gave her three to five years, so when she made it to 20 years, it was a gift from God."
Goretski finally succumbed to chronic organ rejection and kidney failure at Singing River Hospital in Ocean Springs, after years of battling the former, and several months with the latter.
Tony Goretski said she was able to see all of her family for almost a week before she died, which was important to her.
When told of Goretski's story, Dr. Reinaldo Rampolla, medical director of lung transplantation at the Ochsner Multi-Organ Transplant Institute, said it was remarkable she had lived as long as she did.
"Only about 20 percent of overall patients who receive a lung transplant will live longer than 10 years after the transplant," he said, "and definitely a patient with pulmonary fibrosis who lived longer than 20 years, that's less than 5 percent of all the population who gets lung transplants so that's pretty rare. It's quite remarkable, the fact she was able to live that long. A lot of people think with lung transplantation, you're just prolonging the life of a patient five to 10 years, but we do have patients that live that long."
Rampolla said Goretski's survival should gives others in the field hope.
"Hopefully, we'll see more of those patients in the coming years. There's better surgical techniques, better ways of preserving the organs prior to transplant," he said.
That news would have excited Goretski. Although she was unable to be an organ donor herself, the Ocean Springs resident was a vocal advocate for the cause that had given her two extra decades.
"You see these kids up here?" she told the Sun Herald in April, pointing to family photos that filled walls in her living room. "Those are all my nieces and nephews and I would not have met any one of them."
Goretski is a 1984 graduate of Ocean Springs High School, and a 1989 graduate of the University of Southern Miss. Following her surgery in 1993, Goretski returned to college and earned a master's degree from William Carey College.
She is survived by her parents, Anthony J. Goretski Sr. and Berryl, her brother, Tony, and her sisters, Diana and Maureen.
Mass is scheduled for Thursday at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Ocean Springs. Visitation will be at 10 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, Goretski's family requests that donations be made in her honor to the Jason Kendal Ray Memorial Trust Foundation (JasonRay.org/Give-A-Gift), which helps cover expenses of patients and their families awaiting transplants. The St. Vincent de Paul Society (St. Alphonsus, 502 Jackson Ave., Ocean Springs) is another preferred cause.