–By Michael Pierce
She had accomplished her dream. She had become a world-renowned soprano. She trained and sang in the world’s great opera houses. Now – September 21, 2011 – she had her Lincoln Center debut. As the curtain closed, she collapsed into a wheelchair. An IV is inserted into a PICC line. Oxygen was then administered.
Charity Tillemann-Dick is dying.
At twenty years of age, Charity had been diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Hypertension (IPH). IPH causes increased blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and right side arteries of the heart. In 2009 she underwent a double lung transplant and heart surgery. In 2011 these transplanted lungs began to fail due to an infection. She was 28 years old. Charity underwent her second double lung transplant a few months later.
The Encore, A Memoir in Three Acts (2017, Atria Books, Simon & Schuster) is a true story of love, of family, faith, resilience, and survival. Tillemann-Dick doesn’t whitewash her story. She provides a fairly vivid description of her first transplant. She also writes how the constant care and attention she required from friends, family, and her fiance’s strained relationships and occasionally led to unpleasant confrontations with medical personnel, family members, and her future in-laws. Charity sometimes has to remind everyone that, ultimately, she has the final say in all decisions. Medical science (and love) finally prevail.
As a person with a life threatening illness I quickly became engrossed in this book. Tillemann-Dick’s writing is almost poetic in style, making The Encore a very easy read. It also made me think – about faith, about this disease which will kill me, and how I wish I had just a small portion of the resiliency she’s exhibited. Above all, Charity – and the people who surround her – have hope. Hope is the one thing that can keep a person with a life threatening illness going.
Check out her TED talk. Read this book. Prepare to laugh, to cry, and to be constantly amazed.